Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: The Possession

This Jewish-themed horror film demonstrates that the Anti-Defamation League is never around when you need them.

Aug 30, 2012

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1362258-Possession_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

We’ve had zombies, demons, vampires and ghosts. Why shouldn’t a dybbuk—the Judaic version of the possessing spirit—have a chance to finally shine again on the big screen? Representing a sort of equal-opportunity religious variation on an all-too-familiar theme, The Possession is a Jewish-themed Exorcist that, if nothing else, should discourage the practice of buying antique wooden boxes at flea markets.

Such a box, carved with Hebrew inscriptions, causes no end of havoc in this low-rent horror film receiving a typical dog-days, end-of-summer release. It comes into the possession of the Brenek family, or rather the splintered Brenek family, since father Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has been separated from his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) for a year, causing predictable emotional difficulties for young daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and ten-year-old Em (Natasha Calis).

Em persuades her dad to buy her the ominous-looking box, unaware that its previous owner, an elderly woman, has wound up immobilized in bed after being handled rather violently by the dybbuk inside it. Said dybbuk soon finds a new host in the innocent young girl who, like Linda Blair’s Regan, starts displaying violent, anti-social behavior. But while at first her symptoms prove hardly distinguishable from those of a typical troubled adolescent, an invasion of giant moths in her bedroom proves the need for drastic measures, or at least a good exterminator.

After a quick consultation with a professor, Clyde heads to Borough Park, Brooklyn, here depicted as so awash in Hasidim that it resembles a 19th-century Polish shtetl. There he enlists the aid of a rabbi’s son, Tzadok (played, in a canny bit of casting, by the Hasidic hip-hop/reggae star Matisyahu).

After a medical procedure that reveals that dybukks are visible on MRIs, they get down to the inevitable business of a Jewish exorcism, performed in perhaps the most poorly securitized, empty hospital in North America.

Director Ole Bornedal ( Nightwatch) indulges in the usual cheap scares induced by ear-shattering bursts of volume, frequently punctuating scenes with blackouts and ominous piano chords. But despite young thespian Calis’ impressive ability for malevolent staring, her character is never all that frightening, with her possession often signaled by dark eye shadow that makes her look mainly like a young Goth chick.

The adult performers go through their properly anguished paces with professionalism, with Morgan displaying his usual relaxed charisma and Sedgwick displaying even more levels of anger than she did as the hard-boiled deputy police chief in The Closer. But Matisyahu, while a likeable screen presence, seems to have been cast less for the quality of his acting than for his copious facial hair.

Much is made of the fact that the film is “based on a true story,” with the press notes even including an excerpt from the original ad on eBay attempting to sell the infamous box. But there surely must be easier ways to drum up the price.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: The Possession

This Jewish-themed horror film demonstrates that the Anti-Defamation League is never around when you need them.

Aug 30, 2012

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1362258-Possession_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

We’ve had zombies, demons, vampires and ghosts. Why shouldn’t a dybbuk—the Judaic version of the possessing spirit—have a chance to finally shine again on the big screen? Representing a sort of equal-opportunity religious variation on an all-too-familiar theme, The Possession is a Jewish-themed Exorcist that, if nothing else, should discourage the practice of buying antique wooden boxes at flea markets.

Such a box, carved with Hebrew inscriptions, causes no end of havoc in this low-rent horror film receiving a typical dog-days, end-of-summer release. It comes into the possession of the Brenek family, or rather the splintered Brenek family, since father Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has been separated from his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) for a year, causing predictable emotional difficulties for young daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and ten-year-old Em (Natasha Calis).

Em persuades her dad to buy her the ominous-looking box, unaware that its previous owner, an elderly woman, has wound up immobilized in bed after being handled rather violently by the dybbuk inside it. Said dybbuk soon finds a new host in the innocent young girl who, like Linda Blair’s Regan, starts displaying violent, anti-social behavior. But while at first her symptoms prove hardly distinguishable from those of a typical troubled adolescent, an invasion of giant moths in her bedroom proves the need for drastic measures, or at least a good exterminator.

After a quick consultation with a professor, Clyde heads to Borough Park, Brooklyn, here depicted as so awash in Hasidim that it resembles a 19th-century Polish shtetl. There he enlists the aid of a rabbi’s son, Tzadok (played, in a canny bit of casting, by the Hasidic hip-hop/reggae star Matisyahu).

After a medical procedure that reveals that dybukks are visible on MRIs, they get down to the inevitable business of a Jewish exorcism, performed in perhaps the most poorly securitized, empty hospital in North America.

Director Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch) indulges in the usual cheap scares induced by ear-shattering bursts of volume, frequently punctuating scenes with blackouts and ominous piano chords. But despite young thespian Calis’ impressive ability for malevolent staring, her character is never all that frightening, with her possession often signaled by dark eye shadow that makes her look mainly like a young Goth chick.

The adult performers go through their properly anguished paces with professionalism, with Morgan displaying his usual relaxed charisma and Sedgwick displaying even more levels of anger than she did as the hard-boiled deputy police chief in The Closer. But Matisyahu, while a likeable screen presence, seems to have been cast less for the quality of his acting than for his copious facial hair.

Much is made of the fact that the film is “based on a true story,” with the press notes even including an excerpt from the original ad on eBay attempting to sell the infamous box. But there surely must be easier ways to drum up the price.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Major Releases

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Film Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Latest rollicking entry in the sturdy series (installments one and two together hit a billion dollars in grosses) again has natural and historic wonders come alive at night to wreak havoc. But it’s largely kids’ stuff. More »

The Interview
Film Review: The Interview

If you’re curious, the movie that has North Korea so upset is genuinely amusing, if flawed in the length department. More »

Annie review
Film Review: Annie

Here’s an updated Annie for today’s entitled, tech-savvy and racially diverse generation of tweens who can easily relate to the new Annie’s love of luxurious toys. Their parents and other adults may miss the sweet innocence of the original, but they won’t be entirely bored by this frenetic new version of her classic story. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here