The Possession (2012)
So, another ghost story.... Well, demon story. Same sort of thing.
Put forward around the place as a Jewish version of The Exorcist, the film talks about a Hassidic evil spirit known as a Dybbuk. Now, this wasn't the first time I'd heard the name Dybbuk. It was a major feature in the opening scene of my favourite Coen Brothers film "A Serious Man". I have to say that the opening scene to the Coen Brothers film, jokes and all, is actually more disturbing to me than "The Possession". That opening scene of "A Serious Man" seems to take a "story with a moral" form, yet there doesn't seem to be a moral to be found. That opening finishes with a character praising God, but the other character feels deeply uncomfortable and it's difficult not to side with him on the matter.
The Possession begins with a woman being thrown about by some powerful supernatural force. Her face gets distorted, she's slammed into walls, her body gets contorted and she's thrown down onto a glass table. Quite a visceral scene, but not exactly 'scary'. My thoughts at this point were that this was immediately going into my s**t list for giving us a supernatural monster that can seemingly do whatever it wants. The woman in the opening appears to have the ugly box containing the power of the Dybbuk on her mantlepiece of all places and that always felt rather bizarre.
Another feeling I had in this opening, however, was that it was hard to take it seriously. While the woman is being thrown around her adult son is at the door wondering what is going on. The idea of a man going to see his mother while meanwhile she's being thrown around by this ludicrous supernatural force just felt funny to me. And I've got a horrible feeling that some of the production team actually intended this to be a horror-comedy and their vision was mangled. I will explain my feelings on this further down, but first let's make clear what happens here.
Initially it feels like there are two films going on at once. There's a massive disconnect between the family drama, which I was really getting into, and the supernatural horror scenes, of which the vast majority were not connecting with me at all.
Remember the movie "Watchmen"? Remember the actor who played "The Comedian"? Well he's a father in this movie. He's a really nice guy who gets on well with his children. He has two children, one who is into dancing and another super-sweet younger one who is campaigning for animal rights in her school. They also have a mother who clearly cares a lot about them too, but this image of happy families is broken up when we discover that the two parents are actually divorced. The father is actually picking up his children to take them away for the weekend.
The character interactions feel very natural in these early scenes. The father shows his children his new home and they visit a yard sale and pick up the box connected to the Dybbuk. But here there is a little 'scary' moment when the woman we saw beaten up by the evil force earlier can be seen in the window covered in plaster casts, calling out in horror as she realises that a little child is going to leave with the box containing the evil spirit that hurt her so badly. This is a clear exhibit A moment which makes me think that the writer intended this as a horror comedy. Sam Raimi is one of the producers and there's very much a kind of over-the-top "Drag Me To Hell" kind of feel to a lot of these 'scary' moments which makes me wonder whether the humour was intended by the writer even if it doesn't seem intended by the director.
Some of the lines actually suggest to me that we are not supposed to be taking this movie as seriously as the direction would suggest. This is arguable, but when the Jewish exorcist finally turns up and they are with the possessed daughter in the hospital late on in the movie, the mother asks, "Can you help her?" and the Jewish exorcist replies, "Of course I can. What am I? A Doctor?" How is that not supposed to be funny?
( Click here to read the rest of the review... )