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Possession, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Same old tsuris."
2 stars

"The Possession" adds something to the long list of horror-movie rules: Never buy an old, weird-looking box at a yard sale.

Said box has Hebrew carvings on the outside and no obvious way to open it — no lid, no seams. Inside the box is a dybbuk — a Jewish demon seeking an innocent as a host body. This may be an interesting take on the well-worn exorcism subgenre, but the movie doesn’t have much to say about Jewish mysticism or demonology. Apparently all you have to do is go to a young, compassionate Hasidic Jew and he’ll clear it up for you, reading loudly from scripture. It helps if your guy is played by the reggae/hip-hop artist Matisyahu, who at one point during the exorcism calls out “Everybodeeee put your hands on her!” and for a second it sounds like “Everybodeeee put your hands in the air and wave ‘em like you don’t care!

Yet another mid-budget spook show produced by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House imprint, The Possession spends a lot of time setting up the family targeted by the dybbuk. Basketball coach Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) are getting a divorce; this is hard on their two daughters, Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport). Stephanie is going out with a dentist who makes everyone take their shoes off in the house and wants to put braces on Hannah’s teeth. It’s not her teeth that anyone has to worry about, though. Em finds the dybbuk box at the aforementioned yard sale and Clyde buys it for her. Soon enough, Em is acting strangely and violently, craving the box like an addict. For too long, everyone thinks Em is just acting out; obviously all these post-Exorcist movies unfold in a universe where The Exorcist doesn’t exist and people waste valuable time looking for psychological and medical explanations for the supernatural.

Eventually Clyde goes to Matisyahu, who, unlike all the other Jews Clyde begs for help, has a conscience and is willing to risk his life to save Em. I doubt this is meant to be anti-semetic; it’s just a chance for Matisyahu to play heroic and rebellious. By the time Em is wolfing down raw meat from the fridge and an MRI shows the dybbuk living inside her chest, The Possession has defaulted to the generic demonic thrills its title promises. A few moments are effective, though, courtesy of the noted Danish director Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch), who holds himself to clean, classical filmmaking and prefers creepiness to shocks. The movie is well-appointed if not terribly well thought-out. If you wanted to get rid of a dybbuk box, would you put it in a yard sale? What if nobody buys it? And are we to believe that nobody in a hospital would hear loud exorcism-type goings-on in a deserted physical-therapy room? And what, if anything, do the doctors say when the dybbuk shows up on the MRI?

Like The Exorcist, The Possession seems to imply that a broken home opens the gates of hell; divorce will leave your daughter vulnerable to demons. Even as a metaphor, it rings no bells of truth: parents staying miserably together “for the sake of the kids” apparently cause no harm to the kids whatsoever. (Poltergeist was refreshing because the parents were happily married and the phantasms still came.) In any event, unlike The Exorcist, the nuclear family is restored here, with the cowardly dentist peeling off down the street, never to be seen again. Clyde will pass up his dream job in North Carolina the movie brings up several million times, and he and Stephanie, who in Clyde’s words “forgot how to get along,” will presumably forget how to not get along.

Really, the dybbuk was the best thing that could’ve happened to them.

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originally posted: 09/02/12 07:17:53
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User Comments

9/06/12 Albert It was okay. 3 stars
9/05/12 Samuel this one rules cool 4 stars
9/05/12 Rich Dull. Lame ending 2 stars
9/02/12 Delcia Pena Good movie. 3 stars
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  31-Aug-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Jan-2013


  DVD: 15-Jan-2013

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