Forty years after the premiere of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, Hollywood is still milking the demonic possession cow for every drop it’s worth. Sadly, most of the neo-exorcist features being cranked out now are nowhere near as good as that legendary aforementioned film’s bastard redheaded stepchild of a sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic — which is really saying a lot when you stop and think about it. Occasionally, they try something slightly different, like they did in the imaginatively titled 2012 flick, The Possession, which was co-produced by none other than Sam Raimi.
As you probably should know, Raimi begat his career in Tinseltown with his classic Evil Dead movies, before abandoning his horror roots in favor of resurrecting — and subsequently burying — the Marvel comic book character, Spider-Man. Here, Raimi takes a backseat to directing, giving Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal a chance to show American audiences what he’s made of. Sadly, however, us Yankees might get the impression that he hasn’t a single iota of talent within him, as The Possession is about as dull and routine as you can imagine. The only difference here is that Catholicism doesn’t enter into the tale; instead, the demon is dybbuk, which can only be stopped by a nice Jewish boy.
In other words, you can toss out your tired old Catholic pedophile jokes, people, because this is The Jewish Exorcist. And it’s a relief, too, because a) I’m not Catholic, and b) I have a plethora of Jewish jokes that are even older: the first of which spewed forth from my mouth like split pea soup as I pondered why they didn’t just grab some bacon or non-kosher salt to dispel the demon. Ta-dum. Thank you, I’ll be here all night.
Anyway, the story here centers on a divorced high school coach (yes, our hero is a jock) by the name o’ Clyde — as played by Brad Garrett clone, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Stopping at a yard sale one day with is two teenage daughters, he makes the mistake of purchasing a haunted dubbyk box from the seller, which contains an angry l’il demon inside who begins to possess his youngest daughter, Em (Natasha Calis). At first, Clyde ignores the bizarre behavior of his offspring, chalking off the fact that she outright stabs his hand with a fork as a girl thing. Eventually, coach gets a clue, and enlists the assistance of a young hip rabbi (Jewish hip-hop artist Matisyahu) to help him ward off the evil (of course, first, he has to ask how much he paid for the dybbuk box and haggles with Clyde on an exorcism price). Kyra Sedgwick and Madison Davenport (as the divorced wife and elder daughter, respectively) co-star in this boring and lackluster look into the world of the supernatural.
At least Exorcist II: The Heretic had nudity in it.
Having casually waltzed into theaters without so much as a sneeze announcing it was there, The Possession has now managed to pop up on video store shelves courtesy Lions Gate Entertainment in a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC presentation that is far better than the movie itself. Detail and contrast are real sellers here, and their equal sharpness delivers quite well. Colors, too, are strong — though the movie’s palette is a decidedly subdued one, owing to the tone of the film. Likewise, a 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix offers up just about every sound it can in order to scare you. Alas, anyone who’s seen a real demonic possession movie will know what to expect and when.
Special features for The Possession include two audio commentaries: the first with director Ole Bornedal, the second with writers (and spouses) Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (hey, Snow White!). A featurette entitled “The Real History of the Dibbuk Box” (using the alternate goyim spelling) talks about a wine cabinet sold on eBay which allegedly contained an evil spirit in it (!), and which consequently enabled this crappy movie to be made. Finally, there’s a trailer for the movie itself — along with a few peeks at other (mostly unimpressive-looking) movies from Lions Gate.
Maybe it’s the fact that it was cut down to procure a PG-13 rating (because surely, nobody but bored teens looking to get out of the house and/or go make out would willingly go and pay to see this movie) that makes it so weak. Or perhaps it’s due to the notion that the whole project — which was probably a dumb move to begin with — appears to have been handled with less care than whoever it was that led that damn bull into the china shop had. Personally, any time I see a horror movie with the tagline “Based on a True Story” attached to it, a cold chill runs up my spine — as I know that movie is going to slap what little intelligence is left in me up, down, over and under until I have no choice but to say “Oy gevalt!”
And you thought I didn’t have another Jewish joke to spare, didn’t you?