See It or Skip It: The Possession

A father’s guilt over his divorce leads to trouble in The Possession. Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is trying hard to be the cool parent, letting the girls have pizza despite his daughter Emily’s allergy and their mother’s command to only have healthy things that grow on trees. “We found a pizza tree,” he says, when mom confronts him about it. But it’s not food allergens that wreak havoc on the lives of the family, it’s the strange box he buys Emily at a yard sale where they stopped to get him dishes. The audience knows the box is bad news because of a set-up scene earlier in the film, but really, if Clyde had looked at the thing for more than ten seconds, he might have denied Em’s request.

I found the characters real and engaging. Em’s sickness is in part effective because you’ve grown to care for her character at least a little bit by the time she’s being attacked by the entity in the box. The moth scenes are creepy if you’re afraid of weird-looking bugs, but they reminded me a bit too much of the locust scenes in one of the Exorcist films, and also some other possessed or evil kid movies I’ve seen. While there were no scares for me here, there were a few good creepy moments and some interesting scenes of supernatural evilness that I really liked. The film plays more like a drama that throws a demonic angle in to get more viewers.

There’s a lot of ignorant head-turning in this film, and while at first some of it makes sense, there comes a point where the weirdness gets to be too much for any normal person to not think something odd’s going on here. It takes Clyde and his wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) much too long to determine that something other than post-divorce trauma is at work and that the box is the cause of it. Maybe it’s because they’re too wrapped up in their own personal issues to pay much attention, or maybe it’s just that the script needed things to reach a certain level before the plot can allow them to see. I just feel like if my kid started carrying around a weird wooden box like Gollum held onto the One Ring then I’d put a stop to it a bit faster. There’s also at least one point where the box, having been left at a certain location gets into Em’s hands without any explanation as to how she ended up with it.

For my part, I spent a lot the movie wondering why the hell the family never tried to remove the Huge Honking Ring of Evil from her finger! It was turning her entire hand a rotten greenish-black for god’s sake! I understand that the evil came from the box and not the ring, but still, it couldn’t have been helping. There’s also a murder that happens and is never mentioned again, and one semi-antagonist character whose absence from the final act is never mentioned at all by the rest of the actors.

The Dybbuk box is touted as a Jewish item, and there’s an interesting foray into Jewish lore but I wanted the movie to go a bit further and see something more unique and interesting for the exorcism scene. Particularly annoying was the way Clyde received no help from the religious community except for Tzadok, the young, more radical thinking Rabbi. It just smacks of formula.

Since this movie did well (for a PG-13 horror film) more of them may be on the way. I’m not sure that’s a great idea, because, well, the story’s been told and what’s going to be different in another movie from what we’ve already seen? I’m not convinced the demon box is a strong enough hook for a movie franchise.

More interestingly, I’ve heard that this film took last minute cuts to make it PG-13 and that it was aimed for an ‘R’ before that. I’m not sure the rating would’ve changed the way the film went, but it might be interesting to see what the harder cut was like. Maybe on the DVD?

I say go and See It, but maybe make it a matinee if you can.