There’s been quite a flood of devil movies from Hollywood in the last couple of years, ranging from the almost unimaginably pompous (THE RITE, in which Anthony Hopkins stars in a piece that felt like James Herriot with priests, and bad James Herriot at that) to the really quite good (THE LAST EXORCISM, which did a great job of using the documentary / found footage format and only stumbled right at the end). In the old days the crappy ripoffs would come from Italy but now Hollywood makes those itself as well (THE DEVIL INSIDE - my review of this hilarious bucket of old cobblers is currently the most popular review on this site). There are more of these movies to come and the latest to hit UK cinema screens is THE POSSESSION.
‘Based on a true story’ says the kind of title card that will have the more cynical among us taking that with a pinch of salt, or possibly even a maxi-pack multi-buy economy sack of it.
So there’s this wooden box that’s owned by an old lady and has something horrible living in it. Before the old lady can somehow destroy it she’s had the crap beaten out of her and the box is for sale as part of a grand clear out because now she’s bandaged up and confined to bed presumably her son thinks she will never need any of her belongings ever again.
The box is bought by Em (Natasha Calls) one of the two young daughters of divorced PE teacher dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan last seen in Hammer’s THE RESIDENT which really wasn’t very good at all). Both Clyde’s profession and his ability to be a bit hopeless (e.g. completely forgetting to attend his elder daughter’s school performance for no good reason) did not endear me to him as a character, but then neither did his irritating ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) so it’s left to the kids to steal the show, especially little Em who gets the box open, slips on a ring she finds there and is soon doing her best Linda Blair impersonation before Linda Blair ended up in awful women in prison films.
There was a demon in the box and it’s trying to take over Em, leading to the very best sequences in the film, including one set in an MRI scanner that’s superbly creepy and something I’ve never seen done before. It’s not a straightforward, find-a-Catholic-priest-who-isn’t-drunk-or-in-prison-to-help kind of demon, though. Having played with the idea of a lamia in his DRAG ME TO HELL here producer Sam Raimi throws a dibbuk at us. Finding this out, Clyde goes off to the Jewish area of town (do all American cities have these?) where I was worried / hoping for a moment that he might encounter Sacha Baron Cohen as the requisite exorcist. He doesn’t, but once the film hits this bit it does all become a bit too silly and in the hands of a different director could have been properly hilarious. As it is director Ole Bornedal plays everything straight so there are no real surprises here.
THE POSSESSION is a reasonable timewaster and has a couple of good scares that will make it worth diehards like me watching it. Everyone else can wait for SINISTER to come out so they can properly have the pants scared off them.