The Possession (2012)

*. Another modern ghost story. A few chills. It moves well. But my goodness this is an old story now.
*. As you’d probably guess from the title, basically it’s just a rehash of The Exorcist, right down to the business of the possessed little girl going through medical testing and the father demanding at the end that the demon take him in her stead.
*. On their commentary track the screenwriting team of Juliet Snowden and Stiles White mention how the medical tests were an important part of their pitch, as though that was a new element. And yes, having the demon show up on an MRI (no matter how silly) is one of the signature visuals. But The Exorcist had been here before. Perhaps not accidentally The Exorcist isn’t mentioned even once on the commentary.
*. “Based on a true story.” A claim that, as with all such claims going back to The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, is nonsense. But in this case it seems even more far-fetched than usual. As far as I can tell the story behind the ersatz Jewish mythology of the “dybbuk box” was just something used to help sell an old wine cabinet on eBay.
*. Of course the problem in sticking with a formula this closely is that all of the false scares and “shocks” are expected way in advance. After being shown the doggy door and told of the presence of raccoons in the neighbourhood, were you surprised that the noises in the kitchen were being made by a raccoon? Were you surprised that the father was taken over by Abyzou, after inviting him to do just that not twice but three times? I even called the final twist, right down to the direction the truck was going to come from.
*. Lou Lumenick: “The script . . . adheres so closely to formula that it’s possible to predict not only which characters will end up dead, but in what order.” That was pretty much the feeling I had.
*. There’s also nothing new about the idea, expressed by director Ole Bornedal and the screenwriters, that the horror is an allegory or metaphor for the divorce. This has also long been a staple of horror films, and the way the family is brought together again at the end just makes it silly as well as trite.

*. I’d like to say the cast helps out, but I thought Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick were struggling. Watch the scene where Morgan carries Em out of her bedroom when it’s infested with locusts. Do you see any sign of concern on his face? Does he even seem aware that the locusts are there? Perhaps they weren’t really there and most of them were added by CGI, I don’t know, but shouldn’t he at least be pretending as though he’s fighting his way through a room full of flying insects?
*. Judging from the reviews I’ve read I don’t think I’m saying anything new here about a movie that’s not doing anything new. There are a couple of creepy scenes, but even these aren’t very special. This just isn’t a special movie in any way, which was probably by design.

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