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The Possession Review: The Power of Matisyahu's Beard Compels You

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film | August 31, 2012 |

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film | August 31, 2012 |

Scary things begin to happen to a separated couple (Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and their churlish daughters (Madison Davenport and Natasha Calis) when one of the girls makes her father buy her a strange wooden box at a yard sale. As she grows ever more attached to the box, and the incidents grow ever more frightening and strange, it becomes clear that the young girl is not herself, and her father seeks the help of the Jewish community.

For the most part, The Possession is absolutely by-the-book, from the creepy dark house to the mysterious and unexplained phenomena, but almost every element has been half-lifted from somewhere else, in the sort of story that reminds you of waking abruptly from nightmare, but that you still can’t quite remember the next day. The film purports to be based on a true story, but that appears to be a lie, so don’t let that scare you. I assumed the parts based on a true story revolved around the dad ordering pizza for dinner (a power struggle marked subplot, believe it or not) or perhaps the part where one of the tween daughters acts like a jerk to the rest of her family.

Happenstance and chance rule the day, unfortunately. Morgan is a basketball coach, but though this fact is mentioned several times and we’re treated to scenes of him coaching, it doesn’t seem to matter at all. When a movie is this listless in the broad strokes, the smaller moments begin to weigh heavily on the mind. How can a non-working mom afford the mortgage payment on a huge ol’ house like that in upstate New York? Who has a kitchen that well-organized and Martha Stewart-ed, even in a movie? What man excitedly refers to his DVD collection and races to his Prius to grab a selection? But I digress, hard.

Oh, wait, one last thing, the mom keeps complaining that the dad’s e-mail keeps “showing up on her computer” or something and she “wants it off,” which, uh, okay, sure, that’s how e-mail works, yeah, and we’re treated to a shot of Jeffery Dean Morgan logging on to his Gmail on her computer, and then randomly searching “miscellaneous” and finding some video the two of them shot of him prancing around in the kitchen flashing his abs to the camera. They chortle, delightedly, reminiscing about those halcyon days of summer when they still wanted to bang and not murder each other, and JDM deletes the movie from the trash can, and says something like “There, my email isn’t on your computer anymore.” I’m sorry, what? Later on, the mom complains that she’s still “getting his e-mail.” At which point I vowed to never leave my e-mail laying around on other people’s couches or floors since apparently e-mail just spills out everywhere when you least expect it. This e-mail situation is the real mystery of the film, and I for one am saddened that The Scurrilous Case of the Bulging Inbox was never solved by these two crack tech-vestigators.

There are a few half-spooky scenes, thanks mostly to the beautiful cinematography, though I must note that the score becomes annoying at times, a series of chords smashed relentlessly in what sounds very much like the Julia Roberts’-feet-on-a-piano scene of Pretty Woman. BWAAAAM, BWAAAAM. BWAAAAAAAM. Stupid as it is, I truly enjoyed the performances from the girls, Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport. Both were charming and enjoyable to watch, particularly Calis as the allegedly possessed girl, fighting with ancient forces for her life.

You guys, Matisyahu is in this movie. Everyone keeps saying that, and I guess it’s really the only interesting thing about this movie important. In the movie, he sings for like two seconds, that’s how you can tell it’s him, like a secret sonic handshake. He swoops in at the last minute to aid and abet, and I wish more time had been spent elaborating why all this was happening, why he felt compelled to help. The religious element of this film is far little too late, even though it would appear to be the focus, with no pertinent discussion of the importance of religion in the lives of the family. I wanted more than a cursory two line explanation of why all this was occurring, some kind of demented lineage and historical lesson, but it all slips away like so many moths from a dibbuk box.

For those of you who simply love horror and a good scare, sure, go see The Possession. Who am I to knock someone else’s treacle from their chubby little hands at Christmastime? The cheap thrills might delight you, and hey, let me know if you solve The Whimsical Reappearance of the Oft-Destroyed Electronic Mail.

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