Film Review: The Possession of Michael King

All unhappy families may be unhappy in their own way, but movies about possession/exorcism tend to a numbing sameness. That said, 'The Possession of Michael King,' yet another "found footage" frightener, whips up some creepy moments.
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Documentary filmmaker Michael King (Shane Johnson) dares tempt fate by loudly declaring himself the luckiest guy in the world, married to the smart, pretty Samantha (Cara Pifko) and the doting father of adorable daughter Ellie (Ella Anderson). Even the family dog, a yellow lab named Fishbone, is a goofy delight. He's king of the world!

Well, fate wastes no time knocking him down a few pegs: Next thing we know, Sam is dead and Michael is ripping her psychic a new one, stooping so low as to blame her for Sam's death. On the home front, Michael's sensible sister, Beth (Julie McNiven), has moved in and quietly assumed the thankless tasks of looking after her now-motherless niece, managing the minutiae of day-to-day life and trying to coax her shattered sibling—who doesn't even have faith to lean on—out of his funk. Probably needless to say, she's not convinced that making a documentary debunking fake spiritualists, exorcists, demonologists, necromancers, psychics and other charlatans who pray on the gullible, the bereaved and the spiritually lost is the best thing Michael could do by way of trying to move on. But he latches onto the project like a dog with a bone and persuades his longtime camera operator to come on board.
 
At first the project seems to be keeping Michael's mind off his grief, but things start getting spooky after he lets a druggy, middle-aged husband-and-wife team of demon whisperers conduct a ceremony on his behalf. The results are great mondo movie material—bodily fluids, dingy basement (complete with restraints), weird masks—but things start getting seriously weird after what his cameraman jokingly dubs the "Satanic porn shoot." Michael develops insomnia and what a slew of doctors call tinnitus, but which sounds eerily like staticky voices, the calling card of EVP (electronic voice phenomena, a techno-geek variety of supernatural manifestations); he also sleepwalks and has nightmares, inexplicable seizures and blackouts. Light bulbs spontaneously explode, dead birds litter the yard, and ants march through the house as though caught up in some mass Phase IV delusion. Is Michael losing his mind, or did he poke a stick into some supernatural hornet's nest and unleash fifty shades of hell?
 
The answer will come as no surprise to anyone who's seen The Exorcism of Emily Rose, either version of The Amityville Horror, The St. Francisville Experiment, Red Lights, The Last Exorcism, the seriously creepy The Possession of Joel Delaney (starring, coincidentally, Perry King) or, of course, The Exorcist. But star Johnson (of TV's “Power”) delivers an admirably committed performance as the unfortunate Michael King, whose grandma apparently neglected to tell him that merely speaking of the Devil is as good as sending him an engraved invitation to come on by and royally screw up your life: His contortions are enough to terrify anyone who's ever had back trouble. Kudos also to Tobias Jelinek as a very eerie priest and Anna Mountford as a bubbly English psychic who undergoes a brief but startling transformation. The Possession of Michael King is nothing new, but it gets the job done.

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