The Possession: Sam Raimi's Latest Has Few Haunting Moments

Demonic exorcism is given a perfunctory Jewish twist in The Possession, which delivers second-rate horror clichés unbefitting the imprimatur of producer Sam Raimi. Supposedly based on a true story, Ole Bornedal's film finds malevolence in a hingeless, Hebrew-inscribed box purchased by recent divorcé Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) for younger daughter Em (Natasha Calis) at a tag sale. The trauma of parent separation on young children provides excellent cover for the box's evil dybbuk spirit to get its hooks into Em, who's soon scarfing down food for two and spying fingers trying to crawl out of her throat. Bornedal's fondness for punctuating abrupt cuts to black with a solitary piano-key note is so pathological that it soon turns risible. Amid the usual scary-voiced, eyes-rolling-into-heads mayhem, as well as the semicomic appearance of Hasidic rapper Matisyahu as a heroic rabbi, the director does manage a few haunting images — Em encircled by a swarm of giant moths; the sight of the young girl, arms outstretched while bathed in red light, robotically pleading "Daddy, you scared me" — and an excellent Morgan exudes a shaggy, protective-papa '70s-horror vibe. Ultimately, however, the film's sole unique contribution to the genre is proving that unholy possession can be conclusively diagnosed via MRI.

 
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