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Demon-in-the-Box: The Possession Retrospective (Minor Spoilers)
Original Movie Poster
Possession, double meaning, owning something and being taken over by an evil spirit
Back in early fall 2017 I saw a horror movie online called The Possession, which came out in theaters back in 2012. Even though I didn’t see it when it first came out I do remember the commercials advertising it. I also remember the reviews saying how it wasn’t good, that it was a discount version of The Exorcist, and I thought ‘it can’t be that bad.’ So I checked out The Possession to see what it was like for myself.
The film’s plot follows recent divorcee Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who occasionally takes his two daughters for weekends. One day Clyde and his daughters go to a garage sale and his younger daughter Emily “Em” (Natasha Calis) finds a mysterious box and purchases it. After taking it back to her father’s house Em slowly begins acting differently due to her newly acquired box unknowingly acting as a prison for a demon in Jewish folklore known as a dybbuk. After learning of the supernatural entity, Clyde, along with his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and older daughter Hannah (Madison Davenport) must work together to exercise the demon from Em before she meets a horrible fate.
The acting held up pretty good. While the characters didn’t act as humanly and as naturally as people would in real life, from the events of the film and the situations the characters were placed in the acting was still believable. My one complaint is that there were a few clichéd awkward moments that were cringe-full, mostly revolving around Em after she gets the box. For example, there’s parts where she stares at someone and they simply look at her with a tilted head. It was hard to watch from how awkward it all is.
Morgan’s character of Clyde plays the separate father who does what he can to get through the work day, which is coaching basketball, while attempting to take care of his daughters the best way he can. Once Em begins to change he’s the one who slowly pieces the picture together that something’s off about his daughter. Davenport plays Clyde’s older daughter, Hannah, who is the stereotypical bratty teen daughter. She’s a slight comic relief character though she does add small pieces of drama here and there to fuel the plot. Despite this she doesn’t do much in the film, actually you could take her out and it wouldn’t change much.
Sedgwick portrays Clyde’s ex-wife, Stephanie, who doesn’t care too much for Clyde. A bit of a spoiler she goes from disliking Clyde, to hating him, to loving him, which is a little cliché but it’s just a minor plot in the overall story. Of course Stephanie initially blames Clyde for Em’s change in behavior, though she quickly works with him once they realize what’s really happening. Then there’s Em, portrayed by Calis. Before the box Em is a young bubbly happy-go-lucky little girl, a daddy’s girl if you may. She always had a smile on her face and was rather playful. All that changes once she gets the box. When she opens it she becomes quieter, antisocial, and does things out of her normal character. She often stares at someone with a hard focused look, and since no one knows at first that she’s possessed they’re all thinking ‘what’s wrong with her? What is she doing?’ Regardless, Em is still the most interesting character in the film, while Clyde is a close second. They both have the most screen time and showed the most development.
Once Clyde gains knowledge of what’s happening with Em he goes to Brooklyn and meets a Jewish priest names Tzadok, played by Matisyahu, who tells Clyde more about the demon and volunteers to help him exorcise it from Em. Despite appearing late in the film Tzadok was probably the third most interesting character in the film, from the knowledge he knew about the demon and how to stop it, to willfully helping Clyde face it. Clyde met other Jewish priest and asked them for help, though only Tzadok lends him a hand. There's also the character Brett, Stephanie's dentist boyfriend who barely appears in the film and is so bland that I almost forgot he was in the film. He only has three memorable scenes that are all brief. While he had a somewhat heartwarming scene with Stephanie he was really dislikable in the garage scene with Em. He had one final scene with Em where he disappears for the rest of the film. Similar to Hannah, you could have taken him out the film and it wouldn't have changed a thing.
There's not much to say about the film's music. Honestly, the only music I can remember off the top of my head is the piece that plays when Em confronts her mother's new boyfriend in the garage and thought it was the most annoying sound. Though not really in the film the main theme I remember is the song that plays in the trailer for the film, since it gave off an eerie vibe. It sounded like a heavy choir that gradually increases in tempo. Actually I viewed the trailer several times just to hear that melody. As I mentioned, I can't remember hearing it in the film though I believe that you hear it partially when the box first starts to open in Em's room. There were dark pieces of music that played when something spooky was happening, such as the demon taking over Em. There's also that hyper-sounding theme during the final confrontation.
Despite the film mostly revolving around two characters and everyone else feeling like film filler, I thought The Possession was a very underrated film. As I mentioned before many people compared it to The Exorcism, but I find that unfair. When you view a film, especially a horror film since there’s so many of them today, you have to view it in its own right and not look at what others had done prior. With that said The Possession stands out as a pretty decent horror flick that’s quite entertaining. I will say for a horror film it’s not scary in the slightest, but it has a few eerie moments. While the film probably won’t leave a lasting impression on horror enthusiast it’s still worth seeing.
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