Most supernatural movies are told through Christian folklore with the set of beliefs in mind during the solution of the story. The Possession features a dybbuk instead of just a ghost or a demon. Dybbuks are known as violent and dislocated spirits that possesses humans. They're from the Jewish folklore, which is a religion that this sub-genre has not explored much. After appealing the MPAA's original rating, the film obtained a watered down PG-13 rating. I can't be completely disappointed with movies that have this rating since The Exorcism of Emily Rose proves that a well-made horror film can still be created without the R rating. Unfortunately, there are enough problems with The Possession to make the PG-13 rating the least of your worries.
Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) finalized their divorce, which disrupts the lives of their daughters Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport). Clyde moves into a new house and takes his daughters for the weekend to see it. Em loves the house and the fact that it's so close to the woods. However, Hannah instantly dislikes it since it's in the middle of nowhere. At a yard sale, Em picks out a strange box with Hebrew writing on it and brings it home, unaware that inside the box lives a malevolent spirit. The dangerous entity wants the one thing it doesn't have - life.
The marketing campaign has been meant to attract horror audiences, especially with promoting Sam Raimi's involvement as a producer. Raimi's fingerprints are very difficult to spot in this project. While this is a horror flick, a large portion of this movie feels very melodramatic. There's a lot of unnecessary drama between the divorced couple. Clyde's entire character is a cookie-cutter of the absent father role you'd expect to see in a made-for-TV movie. There are bits and pieces through the first half that are meant to scare, but there's so much drama scattered throughout that it feels disjointed. When The Possession is trying to be scary, it does it with loud sounds and jump scares. All of these "scares" are extremely predictable. The pacing is to blame for a lot of the issues in both the drama and horror departments. There are some interesting concepts here with nothing to make it all come together. One of the few cool scenes is where Em is having an MRI scan done and the dybbuk makes its presence known, but then the film instantly turns back to the stereotypical material that can be easily found in any other supernatural flick, regardless of its folklore.
There was potential that The Possession could have been an interesting take on the sub-genre. I was really not enjoying the movie during the beginning, but it improved a bit as the story moved along. As soon as Em is entirely possessed and the movie starts getting exciting, it turns into the average exorcism flick and pulls every cliché from the book. The ending definitely leaves a sour aftertaste. By the time the credits were rolling, I didn't care any more for the characters than I did the moment the film started. This isn't a movie I outright dislike, as it does have some cool ideas underneath everything and some well-executed stand-alone scenes. It just isn't memorable enough and doesn't separate itself enough from other exorcism movies to be something of note.
The Possession has poorly written characters. They're all one-dimensional and stereotypical. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is acceptable with the material he's been given as Clyde. While the character's actions don't make him very likable, Morgan is fine here. Kyra Sedgwick overacts as Stephanie. The crowd at my screening was laughing up a storm during moments where she wasn't supposed to be funny. Madison Davenport plays one of the daughters, Hannah. She does a satisfactory job, although Natasha Calis delivers the best performance here as Em. Despite the fact that her dialogue isn't anything special, she's genuine in the role and has her moments where she can pull off being rather creepy. The performances aren't anything groundbreaking, but Calis does a good job in The Possession.
Presentation means a lot in a movie such as this. The technical side of this movie has its ups and downs. The cinematography is very well-done. There are a lot of smaller details that went into the color timing which greatly contribute to the overall atmosphere. There's a fantastic scene where Hannah is brushing her teeth and hundreds of moths fly from behind the mirror and land in front of Em's door. This scene was shot very well and it's very effective. Keeping the dybbuk's appearance a mystery benefited the movie greatly. There's a short reveal towards the end, which is a bit of a disappointment since it doesn't look very scary. As far as the audio mixing goes, it has the sole intent of being loud instead of using it as a tool to create a creepy ambience. The one good thing I can say about the audio is that the score is good. It's eerie and represents the movie well. However, one of the same pieces is used so many times that it becomes repetitive and the impact of it is lost.
There's a lot wrong with The Possession and only a few good things to report, although I still finished the movie feeling reasonably entertained. Unfortunately, there's a lot of unnecessary drama mixed in with the horror, which disrupts the pacing often. The majority of the cast isn't able to keep up with the constant tone changes between the family drama and the possession of Em. Otherwise, there are some cool ideas here that could have been expanded upon. The visual execution is solid, especially when it comes to the cinematography. This is an exorcism flick that's a bit below average. It might focus on a different folklore, but the quality of the film itself doesn't stray much from the sub-genre clichés audiences are far too familiar with. I advise viewers to rent it once it's available.