Combustible Celluloid
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With: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Jay Brazeau, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu, Grant Show, Rob LaBelle, Nana Gbewonyo, Anna Hagan, Brenda Crichlow, Iris Quinn, Graeme Duffy, David Hovan
Written by: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
Directed by: Ole Bornedal
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences
Running Time: 92
Date: 08/30/2012

The Possession (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Dybbuk Stops Here

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

By now the demon possession movie is fairly familiar, and there aren't many variations on it, but The Possession is surprisingly above average, and certainly much better than recent entries like The Devil Inside and The Rite.

It succeeds, firstly, with its strong characters. Newly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) picks up his daughters -- the younger Em (Natasha Calis) and the older Hannah (Madison Davenport) -- to spend the weekend in his new house. They stop at a garage sale, and Em asks to buy a mysterious box. She finds a secret switch that opens it and discovers some odd things inside: a tooth, a dead moth, etc. Soon she begins acting strangely. As her behavior gets worse, it seems as if she has been taken over by something. The problem drives a deeper rift between Clyde and his ex-wife (Kyra Sedgwick), but Clyde is not easily deterred. He'll do anything to help his daughter. He tracks down a rabbi, whose son (Matisyahu) volunteers to perform an exorcism. But is it too late to save Em?

The movie spends a good deal of its spare time establishing the emotional awkwardness and the reality of a divorce, and how it affects the parents, the children, and even the mother's new boyfriend. It also has a strong sense of style. Danish director Ole Bornedal, who once directed a horror classic called Nightwatch (as well as its poorer American remake), uses sound to brilliant effect, and also clamps down on gore, focusing instead on scary stuff. When the movie ramps up to its tense climax, the relationships between the characters counts for as much, if not more, than the horrific elements. If the movie has a drawback, it's that it's not scary enough to satisfy hardcore horror-hounds. But at least it's good.

Lionsgate's fine-looking new Blu-ray comes with two audio commentary tracks: one with director Ole Bornedal, and another with writers Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. There's a 13-minute featurette, "The Real History of the Dibbuk Box Featurette," and a trailer.

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