There is something quite unique about The Possession. Having a Judaic demon at the heart of this exorcist horror story immediately sets it apart. But is that the only thing going for the film?
Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star as divorced parents to two girls adjusting to their new family dynamic in different ways. The oldest, Hannah (Madison Davenport), is diving further into her social circles while the youngest, Em (Natasha Calis), is withdrawing into herself.
Both are normal reactions by children of divorce. But when Em begins to progress deeper into darkness, her parents truly worry. Of course the timing of dad buying a mysterious wooden box for her to decorate her room with at his new house immediately sends a warning sign to the audience.
The box is in fact a Dibbuk, an old Jewish artifact built for holding the evilest of evil spirits. Unlike other horror flicks that coyly hold their fear factor over the audiences’ head until some big terrifying reveal, director Ole Bornedal and screenwriters Juliet Snowden and Stiles White give us the box’s full force of evil in the film’s opening moments.
Scares to the film’s main family begin in ways shown in The Possession trailer. Moths take over Em's room and at one point come flooding out of her mouth. Sure, that’s a little different in the scare department.
As the box that is possessing Em begins to show its force, Morgan begins research that sends him on a trip to Brooklyn to find a Hasidic rabbi (Matisyahu) who may be able to help release the terror that is consuming his daughter.
Our The Possession review has to highlight the fact that the cast is solid. Morgan is his usual strong self and Matisyahu steals scenes throughout from actors of longer pedigree. It is a joy to see the young hip hop star break out into film. Hopefully, more roles will come his way beyond portraying a Hasidic Jew.
But the star of this film is Calis. She announces to the world that she is a screen presence to watch. She effortlessly balances her little girl persona as well as an individual who is possessed by a centuries-old demon. It is uncanny.
Director Bornedal weaves a web in ways that tries so hard to avoid horror cliches around every corner. Unfortunately his film is a series of moments that he sought to avoid. It is slightly better than last week’s release of The Apparition, but not by much. Great actors and performances cannot save a horror film utterly lacking in cohesive story structure and truly original scares beyond switching the religion performing the exorcism.