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Possessed (2015)
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by Jay Seaver

"The Omen, The Exorcist, and the big laughs."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There are some spoofs that cast such a broad net for their targets that they maybe slip out of the category of parody altogether, and then there are things like "Possessed", which is clearly one-third "The Exorcist", one-third "The Omen", and one-third everything else. Lucky for those watching it, that "everything else" includes a lot of funny, funny stuff, and the whole thing gets a lot crazier when sculpted out of clay.

It starts with a priest with the unlikely name of Lenin (voice of Josema Yuste) retrieving a holy artifact from a booby-trapped crypt, and don't think his staunchly communist mother isn't disappointed with his career choices on top of feeling neglected. Elsewhere in Spain, we're introduced to Trini (voice of Anabel Alonso), a world-famous flamenco dancer who has retired to take care of her son Damian after the death of her bullfighter husband Georgio - though her manager Manolo (voice of Alex Angulo) would really like her to get back to work. Of course, to say Damian is the sort of kid who causes trouble is a bit of an understatement, and the Bishop (voice of Santiago Segura) is far too corrupt to have the faith necessary to conduct an actual exorcism.

Basic building blocks for a demonic possession movie, only this one is a riot. Director Samuel Ortí Martí (credited as "Sam") has a fondness for slapstick which is in terrible taste, but presents it in bright primary colors that make its gross-out bits far more the stuff of cartoons than horror movies. Sam and co-writer Ruben Ontiveros also have a good sense of where their movie's line between a bit of awfulness that is horrifyingly funny off-screen but just cruel as a visual, making for a movie where anything goes but where the jokes all find their level.

On top of the jokes not being for kids, they're also set up and executed extremely well; the opening sequence is one quality comedy beat after another, and it's not the only part that's good at stacking jokes like that. Sam seems to like stringing gags together rather than gambling it all on one big punchline, which means there are relatively few moments that just don't work at all. He also does a good job of building recurring jokes and references to other movies into an actual story, and is sneaky good at it; when the finale comes, viewers might be surprised at the stake they have in the characters.

Nice voice and design work helps there; Trini's ramrod-straight verticality is a good caricature of a flamenco dancer but also hints at her having to stand tall after her husband's death and goes well with Anabel Alonso's vocal performance. It's a neat counter to Manolo's droopy mustache and sad-sack demeanor, as well. Lenin is a square-jawed hero who can still express a great deal of self-doubt, while Santiago Segura gives a great vocal performance as the Bishop.

The animation itself is slick, reminiscent of Aardman Animation (where Sam worked for a time) although a style of its own and not so intent on looking handmade that there are fingerprints in the plasticine. It's got the smoothness of computer work but the weight of stop-motion, with the former mostly used to composit the latter together. For an animated comedy aimed pretty strictly at adults, it's a very polished production, not always the case with that sort of limited audience.

Hopefully we'll see more like this out of Sam soon; he's going over well-trod ground here, but does it with style and a lot of good jokes. It's straight parody done well, and certainly shows him able to get the audience to react.

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originally posted: 07/20/15 23:08:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Sam Ortí Martí

Written by
  Sam Ortí Martí

  Santiago Segura
  Anabel Alonso
  Nacho Vigalondo

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