Monday, February 18, 2013

THE POSSESSION (2012) movie review

Possession, The
d. Bornedal, Ole (USA)

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick star as separated parents, struggling through divergent child-rearing preferences during Morgan’s weekend visitation rights for their two girls Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport. To further frustrate matters, after the younger Calis picks up an old wooden memorabilia box at a yard sale, she starts exhibiting such strange behavior as speaking in growly voices, eating pancakes too fast, stabbing people with forks, eating raw meat, breaking crockery, punching out classmates and coughing up computer-generated moths.

After a bit of online searching Morgan determines that his daughter's recent acquisition is a “dybbuk box,” meant to contain violent and malicious entities. But now the demon is out of the bag and into the tyke, what to do, what to do?

The question most often asked when discussing last summer’s nonstarter from Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures seems to be, “Why is it so hard to make a good Jewish demonic possession film?” (And yes, it's been tried before - hello, 2009's The Unborn.)  But in this case, it’s less about the denomination or religious sector and more about the recycled clich├ęs and squandered opportunities that litter the landscape. Raimi and partner Rob Tapert, both of whom served as producers here, certainly should have known better, but instead of seeking an original spin on well-worn tropes, they seem to have simply thrown oodles of ho-hum CGI and been-there-seen-that jump scares into the mix and scurried off to their next board meeting.

Ole Bordenal, director of the worthy Danish fright features Nightwatch and The Substitute (as well as the lackluster Hollywood remake of the former), and screenwriters Juliet Snowden and Stiles White take a long time setting up characters and human situations only to pitch it all for a histrionic third act showcasing an overblown yet thoroughly underwhelming otherworldly snit-fit in a woefully understaffed hospital basement.

By turns ludicrous and lazy, I would even rank this slightly below that other much maligned 2012 possession flick, The Devil Inside – call it praise by faint damnation, but these folks had Hollywood budgets and star power working for them and still couldn’t raise a shiver.

Supposedly based on a true story, as detailed in Leslie Gornstein’s Los Angeles Times article “Jinx in a Box.”

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