Don’t Go In The Woods. Don’t Go In The Basement. Don’t Go In The House. Don’t Go To Sleep. “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”(do doo do doo dooby do!) It seems like horror movies are forever telling us what we shouldn’t be doing, y’know, if we wanna live and stuff. The Possession struck fear deep into my heart, because it tells me not to buy weird stuff at yard sales. Nooooooo!
Since this film is produced by Sam Raimi, who I always equate with great horror (Evil Dead, Drag Me To Hell, 30 Days of Night) rather than so-so Spiderman, I had hight hopes for this film. Luckily, The Possession is just as creepy as the real-world events it’s based on. With an original The Amityville Horror vibe and effective performances by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Matisyahu, Grant Show, Kyra Sedgwick and young Natasha Calis as new Box owner Emily, The Possession is a great way to get spooked.
The Possession is a story about a couple that has just gotten divorced, the two daughters caught bopping between parents, and the evil that creeps into their world when youngest daughter Emily buys an old box at a yard sale. Unbeknownst to them, the box holds a Dibbuk, an evil spirit set on getting back into the world of the living. Young rabbi Tzadok (singer Matisyahu, in his first movie role) tries to drive out the evil spirit, but can the evil truly be stopped?
I really loved the feel of this storyline. There’s an honesty and truth to the story and the characters that make it seem as though you’re watching real lives. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), powerful actors whose work in television has rightly developed quite a fan base, play exes Clyde and Stephanie. They have a great on-screen chemistry that adds to the idea that they’re people who used to love each other. Singer Matisyahu gives heft to the role of young rabbi Tzadok, partially because of his work as a Jewish alt-rock/reggae musician (I saw his ‘05 show at the 9:30 Club: amazing) but also because of his quiet but powerful presence in every scene he’s in.
There are lots of little things I love about The Possession:
* Most important? Teenagers and tweens are actually played by kids instead of twenty-somethings How novel!
* The characters are people you can relate to; when the creepy starts happening they do what you’d probably do, instead of something that only drives the plot.
* The peek into Jewish mysticism and their rite of exorcism. We all know about the Catholics thanks to The Exorcist, but this is an intriguing, fascinating bit of information on a part of the Jewish faith that I’d never heard of.
* The sound work is superb, with that little box o’ evil whispering just loud enough to hear. Plus, sudden bangs and bumps are loud but not so loud that the sound alone startles you. This is a film that relies on real scares rather than manufactured ones.
* Makeup is low-key but effective. As Emily becomes possessed by the box, she gets pale and shadowy. And a ring from the box that she wears turns her hand black eeeever so slowly.
Now here’s the really scary part; this story is based on real events. Though the facts have been tinkered with a bit (the “real” Dibbuk Box was bought to light after Jason Haxton bought it on eBay), but the general horribleness is right on point. On July 25, 2004 Leslie Gornstein wrote “A jinx in a box?” for The Los Angeles Times, and Jason Haxton’s book The Dibbuk Box outlines his experiences with the box, and uncovers a bit of it’s history. The box has it’s own Web site — well, the story of the box does — where you can read about the spooky goings-on. (This site also has links to the original auction and books used in researching the box.) For those of you wanting a bit more behind-the-scenes, the makers of The Possession put out a documentary featurette (link: DailyDeadTV ) that has Ole Bornedal, Matisyahu and others discussing the lore of the Dibbuk. Downright creepy.
“But if this feels like The Amityville Horror”, why should I head out when I have Netflix?” Good question. Does this film trot out a lot of the same scares you’ve seen in other possessed-by films? Yes. Bugs, flickering lights, a scary-ass kid, vague whispers that urge awfulness; it’s all in here. But this film also delivers a delightfully chilling bit of old-school fright. The Possession may be the same ol’ eggs in the same ol’ basket, but damn if they haven’t scrambled ‘em in a new and tasty way. Recommended viewing for any horror film junkie, and anyone who wants to get their scare on without getting grossed out by gore