The Possession  (Rated PG-13) 2 Stars09-19-12-possession.gif

The Possession (92 minutes) is like every other movie about demonic possession you ever saw. But get this. Instead of drawing on Christianity for its backstory, it draws on Judaism. Instead of the stars being non-practicing Christians, they are non-practicing Jewish people. The idea that the father, at least, is Jewish is advanced very subtly via mention of Wagner. You see he is divorced, and when his ex-wife mentions that she is attending a Wagner concert with the new boyfriend, he smirks. I think it is a credit to Jeffrey Dean Morgan that he manages to convey the anti-Semitism of Wagner with a mere quirk of the lip and raised eyebrow, while also sneering at the subconscious rejection of his beliefs inherent in his ex-wife embracing a new-found love of Wagner. Or maybe Wagner is just Wagner and I was groping for something interesting to write about.

The film opens with a True Story disclaimer that conveniently explains the timeline of events as a 29-day period. As a framing device it adds nothing to the plot and has no significance to the story. It comes off as a cheap and gimmicky attempt to capitalize off the popularity of documentary-style, shaky-cam films. That, in turn, not only turns me against it before it even begins, but sets up audience expectations that are not fulfilled.

The first scene begins with a woman trying to destroy an intricately marked up box. Since the audience knows the box is somehow a source of evil no one is surprised when the woman strokes out and ends up as a limp ball on the floor. Her son finds her and in fairly short order begins to liquidate her assets via the ever popular yard sale. Clearly he is a bad son who is just itching to put his mom in a home, as evidenced by the way he grabbed things at random out of her house to sell from her yard. Too bad for the unsuspecting passersby that the demonic items are priced to sell, as the recently divorced Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his two kids Emily and Hannah (Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport) sadly discover.

Emily, a naïve, optimistic adolescent going through her vegetarian phase, is quick to succumb to the seduction of the dark side. It turns out the box her loving father purchased for her is home to a dybbuk, a demon by any other name. Em makes friends with the spirit, and endures increasingly lengthy episodes of its possession. At first the young actor does a pretty good job with the possession scenes, but she loses track of the difference between acting and overacting in short order.

Even after consulting with a professor of some kind Daddy Dearest isn’t able to convince his wife (eternally young Kyra Sedgewick) of the need for some serious intervention before a hag-ridden Emily manages to convince everyone that he is a Bad Daddy. A couple of contentious court hearings and one restraining order later, Clyde has headed for New York’s Jewish district to get some answers and recruit some dude to exorcise his daughter.

Anyway, if you have seen The Exorcist you probably don’t need to bother with this one. The young spiritual guy trying to exorcise the tricky demonic being, the male screaming “Take me! Take me!” and the little girl growling out “Em’s not here” while twitching … it’s been done. And as it is presented here, these tributes to other, more original, possession movies come off as borderline parody. The only really scary bit is watching the little girl leap onto full grown adults like a feral animal — and that gets old quickly. Overall, if you have never seen another movie about exorcism, you might get some cheap thrills out of this one. Just don’t buy your ticket expecting any major scares.

Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.

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