The Possession

Don't open that box!

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky
Published on 04.10.2012 10:00 (updated on 04.10.2012)

Also opening this week:

The Possession

Rating

Directed by Ole Bornedal. Starring Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Grant Show, Quinn Lord, Agam Darshi, Amanda Dyar, Natasha Calis, John Cassini. Written by Juliet Snowden & Stiles White, from the article “Jinx in a Box” by Leslie Gornstein.

  Showtimes
  IMDb

Problem with all possession movies: the inevitable exorcism scene, in which a holy figure quotes an ancient text and the possessed individual writhes around in apparent pain, contorting their body and throwing objects around the room using telekinesis.

It’s not just that we’ve seen this before, in every single possession-themed movie; it’s that this scenario lacks inherent tension, because we have rarely have any concept of the strengths and weaknesses of the powers at play. The holy water and bible verses seem to hurt the demon – but how badly? The demon sure looks powerful, throwing all this crap around the room – but why not just levitate a knife through the priest’s throat?

Few films are able to overcome this. The Exorcist managed to turn it into a strength, exploiting our natural fear of the unknown rather than attempting to create any kind of logical suspense. Modern mainstream films like to feed the audience tension in rational, clearly stated and easily understandable doses, which in this scenario is nigh impossible.

And that’s where The Possession comes in: a nicely-produced, well-directed, competently-acted, but entirely generic possession film (love that inventive title, by the way) that loses its potential terror by over-explaining itself to us, and then doesn’t make enough sense anyway to work on any kind of logical level. 

Paint-by-numbers: divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) buys daughter Em (Natasha Calis) a demon-containing box at a garage sale, and the poor girl is soon possessed. This causes strife with ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and older daughter Hannah (Madison Davenport), and forces Clyde to confront the box and turn to religion for a possible solution.

Novelty: the religion this time around is Judaism, and the film casts Hebrew musician Matisyahu as Tzadok, the son of a Rabbi who comes to the family’s aid. The soft-spoken Matisyahu is an unexpected but arresting presence in the film, and The Possession really benefits from the offbeat casting. 

There’s also one near-great scene, when Clyde takes the box to a college professor who explains the theology behind it. The professor is played by Jay Brazeau with a kind of note-perfect this-is-damn-scary-stuff-but-of-course-we-don’t-believe-in-it ironic foreboding that recalls the horror films of Possession producer Sam Raimi (and in particular, Drag Me to Hell). 

Unfortunately, the script by Juliet Snowden & Stiles White (purportedly “based on a true story” – uh-huh) is so generic that there’s no room for anything unexpected (i.e., anything really scary). Not only do we know exactly where this is going, but the film’s internal logic (or lack thereof) prevents any tension from being built up along the way.

The Possession was directed by Ole Bornedal, who made a splash with the (excellent) 1994 Norwegian morgue-set thriller Nightwatch and then faded away (on the international scene, at least) after helming its (underrated) 1997 American remake. If nothing else, the film represents the work of a director in control of his craft; unfortunately, that craft is being wasted on something so conventional.

Still, amongst the recent wave of exorcism-themed films – which includes The Rite, The Devil Inside, and The Last Exorcism, amongst many others – The Possession represents one of the better efforts. Given the genre’s inherent weaknesses, this is about as good as it gets post-Exorcist

Also opening this week: 

  • Hotel Transylvania (showtimes | IMDb), a horror-themed animated film from Genndy Tartakovsky (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) featuring the vocal work of Adam Sandler and Kevin James. Screening in a Czech dubbed version, but you can catch it in English (in both 2D and 3D versions) at Cinema City Slovanský dům. Check back this weekend for a review.
  • Hasta la vista! (showtimes | IMDb), a Belgian comedy-drama from director Geoffrey Enthoven. Screening in Dutch with Czech subtitles.
  • Cesta do lesa (showtimes | IMDb), the new comedy-drama by Tomáš Vorel (Skřítek, Gympl). Screening in Czech.

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5.1.12:Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ★★★½
29.12.11:The Darkest Hour ★★
22.12.11:The Inbetweeners Movie ★★ | Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked ★½
15.12.11:Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ★★★
8.12.11:New Year’s Eve ★½ | The Rum Diary ★★★½ | The Thing ★★½
1.12.11:Moneyball ★★★★ | Puss in Boots ★★★
24.11.11:Immortals ★★★
17.11.11:The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 ★★★½ | I Don’t Know How She Does It ★
10.11.11:Real Steel ★★★ | Tower Heist ★★½ | Anonymous ★★½
3.11.11: In Time ★★½
27.10.11:Adventures of Tintin ★★★★ | The Debt ★★½ | Larry Crowne ★★½ | Cave of Forgotten Dreams ★★★½
20.10.11:Paranormal Activity 3 ★★★ | The Three Musketeers ★ | Contagion ★★★½
13.10.11:Johnny English Reborn ★★½
6.10.11:Killer Elite ★★★ | One Day ★★ | Dream House ★½
29.9.11:Friends with Benefits ★★½ | Abduction ★
27.9.11:The Skin I Live In ★★★½
22.9.11:Midnight in Paris ★★★½ | Colombiana ★★½ | Shark Night 3D ★½
15.9.11:Drive ★★★★ | Pina ★★★½ | Crazy, Stupid, Love. ★★½ | Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ★★½
8.9.11:Super 8 ★★★½ | Final Destination 5 ★★★
25.8.11:Cowboys & Aliens ★★
18.8.11:Conan the Barbarian ★★ | Green Lantern ★★½ | Win Win ★★★½ | Womb ★½
11.8.11:Rise of the Planet of the Apes ★★★ | The Lincoln Lawyer ★★★
4.8.11:Captain America: The First Avenger ★★★ | Horrible Bosses ★★★
28.7.11:Cars 2 ★★½ | Jane Eyre ★★★½ | Bad Teacher ★½ | The Resident ★★
21.7.11:The Tree of Life ★★★★ | The Mechanic ★★
14.7.11:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ★★★½ | Submarine ★★★½
7.7.11:Hanna ★★★½ | Bridesmaids ★★★½
30.6.11:Transformers: Dark of the Moon ★½
16.6.11:Your Highness ★½
9.6.11:The Hangover Part 2 ★★★ | Paul ★★½ | Skyline ★½
2.6.11:X-Men: First Class ★★★½
26.5.11:Melancholia ★★★★
19.5.11:Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ★★½
12.5.11:Priest 3D ★★ | Water for Elephants ★★★ | Something Borrowed ★★ | Tetro ★★★½
5.5.11: Fast Five
28.4.11: Thor
21.4.11: Source Code | The Eagle | Mr. Nice
14.4.11: Scream 4 | Just Go with It | Unknown | Somewhere
7.4.11: The Way Back | Love and Other Drugs | Jack Goes Boating | I Am Number Four
31.3.11: Sucker Punch | No Strings Attached | My Soul to Take
24.3.11: Limitless
17.3.11: The Dilemma | The Rite | Sanctum
10.3.11: Rango | The King’s Speech
3.3.11: The Adjustment Bureau | Drive Angry 3D
24.2.11: The Fighter | Morning Glory
17.2.11: True Grit | Burlesque
10.2.11: Black Swan | London Boulevard
3.2.11: 127 Hours
27.1.11: The Tourist | Tangled | Chain Letter
20.1.11: The Next Three Days | Gulliver’s Travels
13.1.11: The Green Hornet | Season of the Witch | Another Year
6.1.11: The Kids Are All Right | The Good Heart
16.12.10: TRON: Legacy | Paranormal Activity 2
9.12.10: Megamind
2.12.10: Due Date | The American
25.11.10: The Other Guys | The Switch
18.11.10: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
11.11.10: Howl | Devil
4.11.10: The Social Network | You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger | Saw 3D
28.10.10: Red | Animal Kingdom
21.10.10: Four Lions
14.10.10: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Eat Pray Love | Machete
7.10.10: DVD Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop
30.9.10: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
23.9.10: Resident Evil: Afterlife
16.9.10: The Karate Kid | Going the Distance
9.9.10: Největší z Čechů
2.9.10: Step Up 3D | Ondine
26.8.10: Grown Ups
19.8.10: The Expendables | The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | A Serious Man | When You’re Strange
12.8.10: Salt
5.8.10: Get Him to the Greek
29.7.10: Knight and Day | Bunny and the Bull
22.7.10: Inception | Agora
15.7.10: Shrek Forever After | A Single Man | The Rebound | Mr. Nobody
8.7.10: Predators | Letters to Juliet
1.7.10: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
24.6.10: Killers | Solomon Kane
17.6.10: Toy Story 3 | The A-Team | From Paris with Love | The Back-up Plan
10.6.10: The Ghost Writer
3.6.10: Sex and the City 2 | Green Zone
27.5.10: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time | Brooklyn’s Finest | Precious
20.5.10: Hot Tub Time Machine
13.5.10: Robin Hood | Whatever Works
6.5.10: Kick-Ass
29.4.10: Iron Man 2 | The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans | The Road
22.4.10: The Bounty Hunter | The Crazies
15.4.10: Clash of the Titans | An Education
1.4.10: Moon | The Men Who Stare at Goats | Everybody’s Fine
25.3.10: Remember Me | Leap Year | Babylon A.D.
18.3.10: The Lovely Bones | Legion
11.3.10: Daybreakers | Dear John | Mammoth
4.3.10: Alice in Wonderland | Nine
25.2.10: Shutter Island | The Hurt Locker
18.2.10: The Wolfman | Valentine’s Day | Edge of Darkness
11.2.10: The Book of Eli | In Search of a Midnight Kiss
4.2.10: Capitalism: A Love Story | Brothers | The Box | Did You Hear About the Morgans?
28.1.10: Up in the Air | The Fourth Kind | New York, I Love You
21.1.10: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus | It’s Complicated | Black Dynamite
14.1.10: Sherlock Holmes
7.1.10: Fame
17.12.09: Avatar | Whip It
10.12.09: Spread
3.12.09: Zombieland | A Perfect Getaway
26.11.09: The Twilight Saga: New Moon | Antichrist
19.11.09: Paranormal Activity | Law Abiding Citizen | The Time Traveller’s Wife
12.11.09: 2012
5.11.09: My Life in Ruins
29.10.09: This Is It, Love Happens, Halloween II
22.10.09: Fifty Dead Men Walking, Saw VI
15.10.09: The Brothers Bloom, The Ugly Truth, The Final Destination
8.10.09: Surrogates
1.10.09: Julie & Julia, Hunger
24.9.09: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Gamer, Night of the Living Dead 3D
17.9.09: District 9
3.9.09: The Taking of Pelham 123, Man on Wire
27.8.09: Inglourious Basterds, Taking Woodstock, The Proposal
20.8.09: Up, Two Lovers
13.8.09: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra
6.8.09: Brüno
30.7.09: The Boat That Rocked, Away We Go, Knowing
23.7.09: Crank: High Voltage, Bronson, The Accidental Husband
16.7.09: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Limits of Control
9.7.09: Public Enemies, The Wrestler
2.7.09: Fighting
25.6.09: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
18.6.09: The Hangover, Drag Me to Hell, Zack and Miri Make a Porno
11.6.09: Coraline, The Secret of Moonacre
4.6.09: Terminator Salvation, I Love You, Man
28.5.09: State of Play, Bottle Shock, New in Town
21.5.09: The Last House on the Left
14.5.09: Angels & Demons
7.5.09: Star Trek, Duplicity, 17 Again
30.4.09: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, My Bloody Valentine
23.4.09: Synecdoche, New York, The Reader, Friday the 13th
16.4.09: Gran Torino, Defiance, Hotel for Dogs, Confessions of a Shopaholic
9.4.09: The Visitor, Happy-Go-Lucky
2.4.09: Fast & Furious, Bride Wars
19.3.09: He’s Just Not That Into You, Battle in Seattle, Sex Drive, The Unborn
12.3.09: Seven Pounds, Marley & Me
5.3.09: Watchmen, Doubt
26.2.09: Slumdog Millionaire, The Duchess, The Pink Panther 2
19.2.09: Frost/Nixon, The Spirit, Transporter 3, City of Ember, Bolt
12.2.09: Valkyrie, Milk
5.2.09: The Tale of Despereaux, Bedtime Stories
29.1.09: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road
22.1.09: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Traitor
15.1.09: Burn After Reading, Yes Man, Che: Part One, My Best Friend’s Girl
8.1.09: Changeling
2.1.09: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
25.12.08: Australia
11.12.08: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Four Christmases, Paranoid Park, Make It Happen
4.12.08: Bangkok Dangerous, High School Musical 3: Senior Year
27.11.08: Twilight, Body of Lies
20.11.08: Death Race, Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Strangers
13.11.08: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
6.11.08: Quantum of Solace, The Women
30.10.08: Max Payne, Nights in Rodanthe, The Other Boleyn Girl
23.10.08: Vicki Christina Barcelona, The Forbidden Kingdom
16.10.08: Nightwatching, Taken, Juno
9.10.08: Elegy, Mirrors
2.10.08: Eagle Eye, Disaster Movie
25.9.08: 2 Days in Paris
18.9.08: Tropic Thunder, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
04.9.08: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Journey to the Center of the Earth
28.8.08: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
21.8.08: Funny Games U.S.
14.8.08: WALL•E, Meet Dave, Then She Found Me, The Orphanage
7.8.08: The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!
31.7.08: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
24.7.08: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
17.7.08: The Incredible Hulk, Shine a Light, Be Kind Rewind, Nim’s Island, Made of Honor
10.7.08: Get Smart
3.7.08: Kung Fu Panda, Hancock
26.6.08: Wanted
19.6.08: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
12.6.08: The Happening, My Blueberry Nights
5.6.08: Sex and the City, Penelope
29.5.08: 21, Untraceable
22.5.08: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
15.5.08: What Happens in Vegas
8.5.08: In Bruges, Speed Racer
1.5.08: Iron Man, Paris, je t’aime
24.4.08: Into the Wild, Fools Gold, Wedding Daze, Superhero Movie
17.4.08: Breath, Frontier(s)
10.4.08: Horton Hears a Who, Doomsday, Vantage Point, Sleuth
3.4.08: In the Valley of Elah, The Bucket List
27.3.08: There Will Be Blood, 27 Dresses
20.3.08: Resurrecting the Champ, Reservation Road
13.3.08: Control, 10,000 BC
6.3.08: 3:10 to Yuma, Jumper
28.2.08: No Country for Old Men, Step Up 2 the Streets
21.2.08: Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead, Rambo, The Eye
14.2.08: National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Charlie Wilsons War, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
7.2.08: Sweeney Todd, We Own the Night, The Kite Runner
31.1.08: Atonement
24.1.08: The Darjeeling Limited, Cloverfield
17.1.08: Michael Clayton, Lust, Caution, Love in the Time of Cholera
10.1.08: Eastern Promises, I Am Legend
3.1.08: American Gangster
20.12.07: P.S. I Love You
13.12.07: The Golden Compass, Hitman
29.11.07: Across the Universe, Beowolf, Balls of Fury, Halloween
22.11.07: Shoot Em Up, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
15.11.07: The Heartbreak Kid, Resident Evil: Extinction
8.11.07: Lions for Lambs, The Last Legion
1.11.07: 30 Days of Night, The Invasion, Sicko, The Good Shepherd
25.10.07: Once, Superbad, Feast of Love, The Seeker
18.10.07: The Brave One, A Mighty Heart
11.10.07: The Kingdom, 1408, Becoming Jane, Snow Cake
4.10.07: Knocked Up
27.9.07: Stardust, Grindhouse, Gympl
20.9.07: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Evening, Disturbia
13.9.07: Ratatouille, The Hoax, No Reservations
6.9.07: Rush Hour 3, Day Watch, Medvidek
30.8.07: The Bourne Ultimatum, Irina Palm
23.8.07: Hairspray, Planet Terror, Evan Almighty, Interview
16.8.07: Transformers
9.8.07: Mr. Brooks, Pans Labyrinth, Surfs Up
2.8.07: Fracture, Venus, Next
26.7.07: The Simpsons Movie, Angel
19.7.07: Harry Potter 5, The Good Night
12.7.07: Inland Empire, Factory Girl, The Messengers, Hostel 2
5.7.07: Death Proof, Oceans 13, Miss Potter, Fantastic Four 2
28.6.07: Live Free or Die Hard
21.6.07: Pathfinder, Curse of the Golden Flower
14.6.07: Shrek the Third
7.6.07: Hot Fuzz, Zodiac, Because I Said So
31.5.07: Premonition, Black Book
24.5.07: Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
17.5.07: The Number 23
10.5.07: Renaissance, The Painted Veil, Wild Hogs, Epic Movie
3.5.07: Spider-Man 3, Copying Beethoven, Sherrybaby
26.4.07: Shooter, The Reaping
19.4.07: Sunshine, Alpha Dog, TMNT, Perfect Stranger
12.4.07: The Hill Have Eyes II, Norbit
5.4.07: Stranger Than Fiction, Notes on a Scandal, Meet the Robinsons, Red Road, Blood & Chocolate
29.3.07: Flags of our Fathers
22.3.07: 300, Sketches of Frank Gehry, Black Christmas
15.3.07: Ghost Rider, Music and Lyrics, Feast, Employee of the Month 
8.3.07: The Fountain
1.3.07: Rocky Balboa, School for Scoundrels
22.2.07: Little Children, Babel, Dreamgirls, Hannibal Rising, The Darwin Awards
15.2.07: Smokin Aces, The Queen
8.2.07: The Last King of Scotland, Pursuit of Happyness, and Crank

Czech Films

Green Horse Rustlers (18.09.16)
The Wolf of Royal Vineyard Street (14.09.16)
The Teacher (30.08.16)
We Are Never Alone (20.04.16)
Pat and Mat: The Movie (07.04.16)
Teorie tygra (05.04.16)
I, Olga Hepnarová (31.03.16)
Rudý kapitán (17.03.16)
Rodinný film (25.02.16)
Lída Baarová
(22.01.16)
Amerika (01.11.15)
Domácí péče (Home Care) (02.08.15)
Mallory (27.07.15)
Malý Pán (The Little Man) (08.05.15)
Fotograf
(20.03.15)
Kobry a užovky (The Snake Brothers) (10.03.15)
Pohádkář (Storyteller) (01.12.14)
Magický hlas rebelky (The Magic Voice of a Rebel) (05.08.14)
Parádně pokecal (Totally Talking) (05.08.14)
Díra u Hanušovic (Nowhere in Moravia) (25.07.14)
Všiváci (03.07.14)
Cesta ven (10.06.14)
Olga (22.05.14)
Hany (19.05.14)
Signál (20.11.12)
Spalovač mrtvol (16.10.12)
Lemonade Joe (17.9.12)
Svatá čtveřice (16.9.12) 
Poupata (23.8.12)
Lidice (27.6.12)
Tmář a jeho rod aneb Slzavé údolí pyramid (28.5.12)
Vendeta (26.5.12)
Alois Nebel
(2.5.12)
Rodina je základ státu
(3.4.12)
V peřině
(14.2.12)
Odcházení (Leaving)
(16.1.12)
Tajemství hradu v Karpatech
(26.10.11)
Katka (1.9.2011)
Rozmarné léto (Capricious Summer) (20.8.2011)
Kuky se vrací (25.7.2011)
Přežít svůj život (Surviving Life) (23.6.2011)
Občanský průkaz (23.5.2011)
Pouta (22.3.2011)
Kristián (07.02.11)
Kajínek (20.12.10)
Protektor (15.11.10)
Největší z Čechů (09.09.10)
Kinoautomat (22.06.09)
Na půdě aneb Kdo má dneska narozeniny? (07.04.09)
Bathory (12.07.08)
Domov (05.02.08)
Gympl (02.10.07)
Medvídek (10.09.07)
I Served the King of England (21.01.07)
Pravidla lži (19.12.06)
Grandhotel (05.12.06)
Hezké chvilky bez záruky (29.09.06)
Kráska v nesnázích (08.09.06)
Šílení (21.12.05)