DIRECTOR Ole Bornedal WRITER Juliet Snowden; Stiles White; Leslie Gornstein (article “Jinx in a Box” STARS Natasha Calis; Kyra Sedgwick; Jeffrey Dean Morgan CINEMA 31 August
Those who had been looking forward to The Possession by virtue of the fact Sam Raimi’s name is prominently marketed may find themselves disappointed. What we have here is far too sanitised to feel like a genuine horror film in other way than principle.
It is a familiar trope, whereby religious intervention is required after a young girl becomes possessed by a spirit. The difference here is that it is a Jewish spirit, a dybbuk ‘taker of children’ that resides within a box passed from owner to owner as it wreaks havoc (the box concept is as far as the basis upon a true story takes us). Now, whilst the exorcism makes a refreshing change in not being Bible-based, this is strictly Hollywood horror by numbers, and in fact the slightly comedic portrayal of the Jews is a little offensive.
The screenplay holds some factors necessary for a potentially engaging film: vulnerable victim holding subtext (burgeoning sexuality of a prepubescent; psychological distress in break-up of a once loving family unit); overlap progressing to merge as the dybbuk takes hold; resultant violence and creepy occurrences. Therefore the real issue lies in Ole Bornedal’s direction, the fear you would expect from what should be a horrific experience for those involved never emphasised. A scene in which a character walks in and out of a roomful of moths is particularly shoddy; he may not be frightened of the moths, but the natural human reaction is, when surrounded by a large number of flying insects, to at least bat them away from one’s face. CGI in post-production is not an excuse for forgetting the driving force of a scene, and attention to such detail is everything.
Familiar tropes require something original in execution for interest arousal, and The Possession simply does not deliver the goods.