Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Possession (2012)

Title: The Possession (2012)

Director: Ole Bornedal

Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, , Madison Davenport, Matisyahu


I’m going to take the opportunity and comment on the state of American Horror Films with his review because well, dammit, this is a PG-13 rated demonic possession film, and to me, the words PG-13 and demonic possession simply shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence, but here we are, talking about the Sam Raimi produced The Possession, a horror film about Jewish demons possessing a little girl. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, American Horror has been castrated, it no longer has any guts. It’s been so freaking deflated of any true horror that we get films like the one we’re talking about today. The Possession is a harmless little horror film, not too scary, not too horrifying, but still, pretty watchable, let’s get that out of the way. This is not a bad film; it simply doesn’t deliver on what we would expect to see in a film about demonic possession, it doesn’t have that edge, that intensity. And of course this is all due to the fact that the film was originally ‘R’ rated, but in order to get the all important money making ‘PG-13’ rating, it was edited down and thus, we get this soft core horror flick.  

Now immediately when we talk about demons and little girls one film pops to mind and that’s of course William Friedkin’s immortal horror classic The Exorcist (1973). If you don’t want your demonic possession film to be compared to The Exorcist, then don’t make it about little girls being possessed by demons, or else you’ll get what you’re gonna get today from this film connoisseur, a comparison between the two. So anyhows, was The Possession worth a damn? Did it even come close to the horrifying levels of shit your pants scares that The Exorcist did? Hell no! It still baffles me how not a single film has ever been able to achieve what Friedkin achieved with The Exorcist. Failed attempts include Lost Souls (2000) and The Unborn (2009), by the way, The Unborn is a film that has a lot in common with The Possession because they are both about ‘Dybbuks’ which is the Jewish word for ‘Demon’. In trying to understand why an American film studio would purposely make their film about Jewish Demons instead of Catholic/Christian demons, the hypothesis I came up with is that producers want to play it safe and so they avoid playing with Catholicism or Christianity out of fear. After all, we all know how cautious Hollywood has always been when it comes to dealing with religion. With this theme, Hollywood rarely takes chances; which is probably why this film is so ‘soft’.  

If you were to judge this film simply by its previews you’d swear The Possession was a true blue scary film, sadly, this was not the case. Demons and Sam Raimi are two things that should get together more often, but apparently the days in which Sam Raimi would direct a good horror film are long gone, never to return. Raimi has gone full on Hollywood for years now, horror is a thing of the past for him. His attempt at horror Drag Me To Hell (2009) was ‘light’ when compared to his Evil Dead days. These days Raimi is contempt with merely producing horror movies through his Ghost House Pictures label instead of personally directing them; which is fine by me, I love the fact that he gives up coming/new directors a chance to flex their filmmaking muscles. I just wish he wouldn’t play it so safe with the horror films he produces. The question that inevitably pops into my head is will the Evil Dead remake that is currently in production be a soft core horror film? A horror movie without guts? I hope not, but if The Possession and Drag Me to Hell are any indication…

Technically speaking, the film is very well made and it does have its scary moments. Invisible things shutting doors and throwing things around is always a spooky deal. The reason why I gave The Possession  a chance is because sometimes, PG-13 horror movies can be scary, the one example I always give is Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002), a film that is PG-13 and scary as hell. While The Possession didn’t quite get there in terms of intensity, it is a well told tale, well acted and well shot and has one or two truly eerie moments in there, I loved those scenes with the little girl opening up the Dybbuk box in her room, which kind of brought to mind the Hellraiser, but thats besides the point. I can’t really complain about the way the film looks, the visuals are very slick, very clean. Kudos to director Ole Bornedal for deliver a slick looking horror movie. Also, I loved the score for the film, it’s so classic! Again, with its score the film reminded me of a horror film from the 70’s, where so much emphasis was put in the musical score. Nowadays, this is something that films have all but forgotten. Music is 50% of the equation when it comes to films!

The cast does a great job, especially the lead actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan whom some of you might remember as ‘The Comedian’ in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009). I couldn’t help but notice how much this actor looks like Javier Bardem! It’s actually kind of uncanny! The dude even talks like Bardem! Casting a mature actor like this one in a horror movie reminded me of horror films from the 70’s when they’d cast these solid, mature actors in the principal roles. In this sense, The Possession reminded me of The Changeling (1980), which starred George C. Scott in the starring role of the father struggling with the loss of his family. Jeffrey Dean Morgan comes off as a strong male lead. Natasha Calis as ‘Em’ the girl who is possessed by the Dybbuk does a commendable job as well, but she didn’t go through hell like Linda Blair did in The Exorcist. A surprising casting decision was giving Reggae singer Matisyahu the all important role of the  exorcist, didn’t do a bad job in my book, as far as I know this was his first attempt at acting in a full length motion picture, so there’s that.

So why is The Possession such a harmless horror flick? Well, because this is a Demonic Possession film and doesn’t deliver the goods in terms of nastiness. Demons are supposed to be these ultra evil things who hate god. They are the worst of the worst; they want to rape and pillage the body they inhabit. On this one, the demon whispers, and makes the little girls eyes go white, that’s about it. Oh wait, the demon also likes to make the wind blow, and turn the lights on and off a lot; that’s as far as this one goes. So it’s harmless in that sense, the film uses a lot of old school horror techniques, lots of horror movie cliches like shadowy hallways, the wind howling, the whispers in the darkness, that sort of thing, and I liked that about it; I just wanted a bit more intensity with those old school scares. Truth be told, it reminded me of these harmless ghost movies like Lady in White (1988), you know, scary movies that aren’t too scary. Ultimately, this is the kind of horror film that a kid interested in starting to watch horror movies would enjoy. Someone who hasn’t seen a gazillion horror movies before might enjoy it, but for the true blue seasoned horror veteran this film is just child’s play.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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