So your daughter starts staring into space, being moody at dinner and talking back when you tell her to do something. Is she a typical teen, or is she possessed by some sort of evil supernatural spirit? That’s the question posed in “The Possession,” a new thriller starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick.
Based on an allegedly true story, the trouble in “The Possession” gets into gear when Clyde (Morgan, best known as Denny on “Grey’s Anatomy”), a divorced father of two, buys his daughter Emily (Natasha Calis) an antique carved box at a yard sale. Em becomes obsessed with the box, but soon her behavior changes from angelic to animalistic. Art first her parents (mom is played by Sedgwick) think she’s reacting to the divorce or trouble at school, but soon come to the only other reasonable explanation possible—she’s possessed by an ancient spirit called a dibbuk who lives inside the bad mojo box and causes havoc before devouring its human host.
“The Possession” doesn’t feel like a modern horror film. One or two possession pictures pop up every year and seem to do well at the box office, but the heyday of the genre was in the 1970s when movies like “The Exorcist” made national headlines. This movie won’t make headlines, or even spur that much conversation on the drive on the way home from the theatre, but it is a throwback to a time when horror movies relied on creepy whispers and shadows rather than special effects for the scares.
Danish director Ole Bornedal uses lo-fi effects to great effect to create an atmosphere of corrupted innocence. For instance, he shoots the little girl hiding behind an empty glass jar to distort her face into a mask of horror in one memorable sequence.
So visually the films works, but story wise, not so much. You may not look to a movie about demonic possession to be airtight plot wise, but this one is leaking air from multiple plot holes. It would be too spoiler-ish to detail them all here, but it would appear that the dibbuk is a little less discerning about who he attacks than the experts would have us believe.
In the moment, while you’re in the theatre, “The Possession” is creepy enough. Later though, when you give it some thought you might wish the lid had stayed closed on that particular box.