Published Aug 31, 2012For all the supernatural horror flicks "based on a true story," it's lazy that more storytellers don't cast a critical eye on the claims of the often emotionally distraught victims. Unfortunately, The Possession is no different, content to traffic in cheap tension tactics and sensationalised religious superstition at the expense of any incisive comment on the potentially reality-distorting emotions of a family crumbling.
Jeffery Dean Morgan (The Watchmen) does what he can to fight through the logic-defying horror movie clichés as Clyde Brenek, college basketball coach and father of two young girls. Director Ole Bornedal lays out some obvious themes early ― when Clyde picks up the girls from his shrew of an ex-wife (Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer), her new beau makes a fuss over tracking germs into the house. Later, arriving at his new house, Clyde comments excitedly on his new digs' proximity to woodland critters. We get it: something is going to happen due to carelessness and misplaced fascination.
Then there's that creepy wooden box with hidden latches and spooky Polish writing on it. It talks and gives old ladies violent, bone-contorting strokes. So, naturally, Clyde's youngest daughter, Em (Natasha Calis), convinces him to buy it for her at a yard sale.
The rest of the movie is a lot of Bornedal aiming for arty and coming up with cheese. Every time something ostensibly spooky happens, he pulls the same trick: swell into a cacophony of sound, abruptly pull the sound faders down to zero, then cue a single minor key piano chord and an aerial shot of the city. Every. Bloody. Time.
His attempts to create a sense of detachment through minimal ambient sound and camerawork that's forever sliding low and wide, when not cutting for cheap, ineffectual scares, give the film some sense of style, but do nothing to compensate for the level of ostrich-headed ignorance displayed by each character.
How do two parents, a rabbi and a full hospital staff not get suspicious of a mystery ring turning a little girl's hand silver when they'll go so far as to cram her in an MRI machine? That's not the set up for a bad joke, but this movie is. (Alliance)