The Possession joins the long line of Hollywood movies inspired by the 1980s classic The Exorcist, though to be fair it has more in common with that forgotten 1985 animated classic from Disney, The Black Cauldron (at least in terms of it primary plot device). The cauldron in that tale (based on the series by Lloyd Alexander) was used to entomb the demonic soul of a king so evil that even the gods feared him. Whoever possessed the cauldron would possess the power to raise the dead and form an army of unkillable soldiers that would do their master’s bidding without thought or feeling. Needless to say, this was rather too frightening a concept for a Disney animated feature and the movie has since become all but forgotten (except by film critics like your truly and the likes of Tim Burton and Jeffrey Katzenberg).
The same concept of objects housing evil spirits is used to chilling effect in the new film The Possession, except that this time the demon inside is a “dybbuk”, a dispossessed soul of a dead being that (in Hebrew) works malevolently to possess the unfortunate mortal who has unleashed it from the object that houses it. The unfortunate soul in this case is a little girl named Emily whose parents (played by Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have recently gotten a divorce. Emily and her sister are staying with their father for the weekend when he decides he needs help creating a home for his girls . . . so he takes them to a local garage sale where they make the seemingly innocent purchase of a dark wood box with an inscription on the front written in Hebrew.
The movie claims to be inspired by a real life story, though naturally the skeptic in me has serious doubts about what may actually have transpired. Regardless, Emily opens the box and is soon possessed by the dybbuk, which leads her to all sorts of bizarre and extreme behaviors that have her family deeply worried. Eventually, they take her to a Jewish professor who knows a thing or two about dybbuks and aid arrives in the form of a rabbi’s young son who believes he can exorcise the dybbuk from Emily’s body.
The plot is standard possession horror movie stuff, but the treatment is what makes the movie work as well as it does. Nothing feels forced or overtly supernatural. In fact, until well into the second half, the action is played with utter realism and makes the final act that much more palatable. A late entry into the summer movie season, but definitely one of the better ones.View All Photos ›