Out of the box – The Possession review

Natasha Calis stars as ‘Em’ in THE POSSESSION.  Photo credit: Diyah Pera

By Richard Haridy
February 6, 2013

It’s a fair assumption that if you’ve seen one demonic possession, you’ve seen them all. Over the last few years there’s been a resurgence of these stories on our screens, from The Last Exorcism to The Rite to The Devil Inside. The Possession is yet another Exorcist-inspired entry in the genre and despite not breaking any new ground it’s a classy production that surprisingly ends up being one of the more effective movies of its type.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick play newly divorced couple Clyde and Stephanie. Picking up his two daughters one day, Clyde stumbles upon a yard sale and his youngest, Em (Natasha Calis), becomes interested in a strange wooden box. As Em grows more and more obsessed with this box, her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. Turns out she’s come down with a bad case of demon and the only cure is a good dose of exorcism.


The Possession earns some novelty points as it explores an unconventional demonic mythology. Unlike more traditional possession stories that centre on Christian demons, this pic looks at the Jewish concept of a dybbuk; the evil spirit of a dead person. The dybbuk box presented here is based on a true tale and several owners of the real box have reported horrible stories while they were in, ahem, possession of it. As Clyde seeks help for his daughter, he ends up ensconced in the fascinating world of Hasidic Judaism. It’s a refreshingly interesting addition to a relatively unsurprising narrative.

Danish director Ole Bornedal does a sensational job adding colour and style to the predictable story. There are several magnificent set-pieces put together with verve, building to a requisite noisy but creepy finale which acts as a satisfying pay-off to a movie that paces its scares cleverly. Bornedal – and producer Sam Raimi – knows the genre well enough to understand that horror needs build up. Despite a slow first act, The Possession clocks in at a perfect 90 minutes. Not every film needs to reinvent the wheel, and nothing here is particularly ground-breaking, yet this is one of the more satisfying horror jaunts in quite some time.


The Possession is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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