Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Possession - The scoop and digest

Another day, another pound and yet another exorcism movie that is ‘based on a true story’.

I mean honestly, does the cinema industry and its audience really need ‘another’ malevolent force throw an unfortunate around a room, witness its host spout an incoherent and distorted language and then be coaxed out from its host by some stereotypical expert?

Well obviously so, because directors know that the sudden influx of this genre is popular and like ‘found footage’, they’ll keep getting made, whether they're based on a true story or not.

Heck, this type of genre has now become more common than meat in a butchers shop but unlike other efforts such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism and The Devil Inside et al, this is far better.

Others fancied it so I'm not one to turn down such an invite.

I didn't have much expectation and I was expecting it to share the same 'brilliance' as The Pact.

Okay, that's nothing like this but what I'm trying it say - it's a rubbish film.

It's no classic but it's good and has enough about it to warrant parting with some coin.

Spoilers and/or plot details will be revealed.

First off, the girl is called Emily which may draw obvious comparisons to The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but unlike that waste of celluloid, this was actually good.

The Breneks are among those dealing with her erratic behaviour and increasingly ominous occurrences.  Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as a basketball coach, divorcee and loving father, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) as the mother and sister Hannah (Madison Davenport).

You could say this film is ‘all in the eyes’, and remember John Carpenter’s classic The Fog with Adrienne Barbeau hysterically warning “There’s something in the fog!”

If I was giving this a tagline, it’d be “There’s something in the box!”

Fairly obviously, the MacGuffin is the box but forget about Hellraiser as this is purely about possession and not pleasurable pain.

This is a fictitious retelling of an antique wooden box containing an evil spirit.  It was bought on eBay and brought to America by a Holocaust survivor.

Those who recall the hellish experiences described it as a 'haunted Jewish wine box'.

As with anything like this and any true story, it's always a case of what you believe.  Whatever, it's certainly freaky and intriguing.

Regardless of your take and/or opinion, here we go.

We are told that a family experienced this ordeal over the period of 29 days... 

It opens with a woman and her exploits with an unusual box.

After some musical intrigue, she approaches the box with a hammer with the intention of causing ‘slight’ damage but she begins having seizures.  Her face begins rippling and shaking, displaying twisted pain, shortly after she is thrown around like a rag doll and experiences unwanted contortion.

During these events, her son is attempting entry to the house and finally, her head has an argument with a glass topped table, and loses.

Her son finds her lifeless and is presumed dead.

We are then introduced to a family and a divorce situation.  The obvious happiness has dwindled and the obvious awkwardness between them is for all to see, as the effect this split is having on their daughters.

Further to this, Steph has an arrogant and unlikeable new bloke.

Clyde has a new house and his daughters move in to adjust to life without their parents together.  Emily still clings to the fact that they’ll get back together but Hannah tells her to get a reality check, for which Clyde scolds her.

A yard sale (or car boot) later, Emily becomes drawn to a box with engraved inscriptions.  Along with other bits, it's bought for her.

What the hell eh?  It’s only a harmless box…

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, or in this one girl’s.... but anyway, she walks by a house and observes a bed-ridden and heavily bandaged woman.

After they establish eye contact, she goes hysterical because of seeing Emily carrying the box.  Her carer, promptly draws the curtains.

Back at the house, Clyde shaking causes the sound of unknown items rattling inside which naturally draws further intrigue from Emily.

It’s plain to see that this is no ordinary box as there is no obvious lock.

Emily takes the box to her room and after further investigation; she accidentally unlocks it by pulling out a concealed secret panel.

Opening the box, she finds various items, including a dead moth and a ring, which she wears.  It’s a bit like a jewellery box as the lid also has a dirty mirror (important).

Emily gradually becomes a recluse and focuses all her energy and attention to the box.

During a family meal, Clyde and Hannah are having a conversation but Emily’s eating arouses the attention of Clyde’s as she’s basically shovelling down her fodder like a discourteous baby and when challenged, she stabs Clyde in the hand with a fork.


True to form, events get more and more sinister and unsettling.

This includes:

Whilst in the bathroom, she begins baulking as though something’s down her throat.  On close investigation, it’s a case of something that’s already ‘down’ her throat.

Emily sits hypnotised surrounded by a swarm of moths.

She gets really pissed off when a schoolmate attempts to steal her box of delights.  The reaction is her violently attacking him and only stops when restrained by the horrified teacher.

When totally under its heinous spell, she deals various unpleasantness to loved ones and even forces her mother’s irritating boyfriend to lose an alarming amount of teeth.

Clyde and Emily share a meal in a diner and when questioned about her fascination with the box, she tells him that the person inside the box says that she’s ‘special’ and shortly after, as though she is literally eating for ‘two’, she orders more food because she’s ‘still hungry’.

That gives it away but regardless, by now you can’t take your ‘eyes’ off it...

The suspense and char building is crafted nicely by Ole Bornedal before Emily begins to display increasingly unusual and disturbing behaviour.

After Clyde takes the box to a professor at the university, he discovers the translation of the inscribed symbols include ‘dislocated spirit’ and that it was used to house a Jewish demon and/or evil.  The professor concludes it is a Dibbuk box.

So that’s the nasty entity that the poor girl inadvertently invites and we later find its called Abizo - the taker of children.

I found some scenes unsettling as these examples prove.

Stephanie witnesses Emily’s personality change in full flow as she interrupts her having a midnight snack in the fridge, but she’s eating like a ravenous animal.  She turns like a beast at bay, crudely giving teeth to a slab of meat.

Seeing that her mother is barefoot, the nasty child purposely smashes a variety of glasses at her feet (now she knows how John McClane felt)....

In addition, the result of an MRI scan is horrific as it reveals an actual face inside her skeleton.

Inevitably, there has to be a possession scene and although this is unavoidable in this type of film, it is skilfully done with more attraction than a moth to light.

Using a hospital is a nice touch and as such, the environment is exploited which adds further to the shock value.

The hired help in a Jew named Tzadok provides the necessary assistance and performs the required ritual.

The ending also fits like a glove.

I won’t spoil it but don’t expect to be overwhelmed with happiness.

Natasha Calis gives an impressive portrayal of the girl who suffers the unfortunate curiosity and unpleasant interference of possession.

Stanton plays the loving father commendably and while other performances lack the clout of those, they are watchable too.

Matisyahu is good as an essential expert and thankfully, the odious boyfriend is only briefly seen and suffers at the hands of Emily.  Ha!

So is there some shit your pants moments?

Well, it depends on who you are and if you’re doused with scare repellent but rest assured, there’s definitely some very memorable moments and the special effects are not content in just been impressive, they are more importantly - effective.

The eye glazing moments turning visual aids into discoloured milk look fairly horrible and the stereotypical ‘been thrown around the room’ scenes ooze power.

The Dibbuk itself is only briefly seen but is certainly a repulsive thing.  I’d best describe it as a pale and deformed screaming pot doll with hair.

So overall, it's rather an unpleasant surprise and more refreshing than a pint of Strongbow.

Sure, it can’t touch the seminal classic and the granddaddy of all possession movies....

Speaking of that, there are surely references and homages to the former.

In William Friedkin's ultimate scarefest, Regan comes downstairs,  wets herself and tells everybody that they are going to die.  What follows is inscribed in cinema legend.

Events escalate after Emily's inappropriate cutlery usage....

It's just too coincidental. 

Also, Clyde demanding the demon to 'take him instead'...

Considering Friedkin's masterpiece is 39 years old, I still find it incredible of how horrible and scary that film still is.

I can only shudder to think what it was like in 1973...

Anybody who's seen it and hasn't somehow been affected by its power has a nose bigger than Pinnochio.

I know some people who still won't watch it...

Anyway, that's history and for now, this is the best you'll get.

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