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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Possession (2009)
Possession (2009)
20th Century Fox // PG-13 // March 9, 2010
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted March 18, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The minds behind Possession want it to be different things. At least one of the directors wants it to be a dark romantic thriller with a supernatural twist, somewhat like The Sixth Sense, although even that film has a fair share of pure horror, while Possession does not. The producers, having successfully attached Sarah Michelle Gellar to this remake of the 2002 film Jungdok, are clearly hoping for something in the vein of her previous Asian redo The Grudge, or even her 2006 creeper The Return. Sadly, it is neither.

Jess (Gellar) is a successful lawyer with a charming husband named Ryan (Michael Landes). I guess Ryan is meant to be slightly dissatisfied with the focus that Jess puts on her work, but he doesn't show it. Maybe it's just around the corner. In any case, the couple are currently helping out Ryan's brother Roman (Lee Pace), by allowing him to stay with them. Unfortunately, Roman is a violent, dangerous man -- Jess and Roman met when she was trying his assault case -- and after repeated intrusions into the atmosphere of their happy home, Jess has had enough. Roman overhears her asking Ryan to toss him out, and decides to leave of his own volition, only to get in a violent car accident with his own brother on the Golden Gate Bridge. When Roman finally crawls out of his coma, he comes out insisting he's a different man: Ryan, memories and all.

The only thing I can think of that sounds similar to Possession (the original excluded, obviously) is Jonathan Glazer's Birth, so I think it's fair to say that this is at least a somewhat original plot, or at least contains the potential for an original twist on familiar themes. But Michael Petroni's screenplay just seems silly in action, like a dramatic, vaguely horror-ish spin on movies like Vice Versa and Big. The consequences of every action and twist, such as, say, Jess's eventual acceptance of the phenomenon and subsequent sex scene, are just so obvious that it becomes funny whenever something pops up. Maybe it's just that Fox's intense "ghost story" advertising insists on suggesting that happily ever after is not the way the film is going to go, but I became listless, waiting for something to happen.

Two directors, Joel Bergvall and Simon Sandquist, are credited with Possession, an occurrence that always makes me mildly suspicious of corny, amped up reshoots unless I already know otherwise. A scene where Roman visits a hypnotist is burdened by a truly ludicrous, head-slap-worthy flashback in which the trickle of blood from Roman's body oh-so-symbolically touches a trickle of blood from Ryan's body, a brief mirror gag implies the opposite of what's supposed to be going on, and there is the occasional insert of Ryan's body lying in a hospital bed during tense moments that seems stylistically set apart from everything else. At least one of the two helmers is also preoccupied with the notion of fog (the same kind of fog that causes the brothers to have their pivotal accident). Nothing wrong with having a motif or visual cue to fall back on, but it would be nice if they'd picked an atmospheric effect that a) looked like something when framed against white, cloudy skies, and b) didn't have to be digitally created, which looks bad.

Eventually, the film builds to a silly, melodramatic conclusion, capped with a painfully corny ending. Promise, followed by boredom, escalating ridiculousness, and a final, sour note does not a good movie make, but it is worth saying that Possession isn't as bad as the reputation of most direct-to-video releases. There was a time when Possession would have been a made-for-TV movie: this is middle-of-the-road, bland material destined for TNT airings where viewers can apply their own mental editing by ignoring or talking through the dull bits, and paying attention whenever something interesting is happening. On DVD, with the focus pointed solely at the film, the filmmakers can only hope that the movie will evaporate from the viewer's memory long before they realize that only 20 minutes of the movie's 90-minute running time is story-relevant, and that the film's title is a bit of a sham.

The DVD, Video, and Audio
Fox sent a DVD-R screener in a paper sleeve, so I can't accurately rate the packaging, video, or audio of the final product. Still, I've seen the cover art, and I can tell you right now that Possession is devoid of haunted houses, ghosts, skulls, or creepiness, so don't let Fox pull a fast one on you.

The Extras
A featurette (3:34) and five deleted and alternate scenes (33:02) are provided. The featurette is nothing special -- it's 65% film footage and nobody says anything particularly interesting, and the issue of whether there were always two directors remains unresolved (two men are framed in the same interview setup, but none of the interviewees are identified on-screen) -- but the alternate scenes are a doozy. In particular, the only one of any interest is the Alternate Ending, which runs approximately 30 of the 33 minutes, and arrives at a significantly different conclusion than the final film. Had it been used, I'd probably still think Possession was pretty dull, so I don't know if it's better, per se, but it's certainly more interesting. My only complaint is that it wasn't pared down into smaller chunks, since the majority of the footage presented in the clip is still in the movie, and one piece is also included as one of the other deleted scenes.

Trailers for S. Darko, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, The Betrayed, and Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy play before the menu (a reel that inadvertently reveals how long ago Posession was prepared home video). The original trailer for Possession is also included.

Conclusion
If you're a hardcore Sarah Michelle Gellar fan or you liked the original movie, I suppose curiosity might be reason enough to rent Possession, and the alternate ending makes for an interesting comparison, even though you'll need the fast-forward button handy. Just don't expect anything spectacular; Possession is competent, not special.


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