The Possession

Director: Ole Bornedal
Stars: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick
Writer: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
Release Date: 31 August 2012 (USA)
Our Rating: 6/10

The Possession sees a young girl buy an antique wooden box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the box lives an ever so malicious ancient spirit (of evil) who like “totally possesses” her. If only she’s kept the receipt. The Possession is directed by Ole (“Nightwatch”) Bornedal, but bears the heavy signature of its co-producer Sam Raimi. Sadly, it’s modern Sam Raimi that lurks in the shadows of The Possessions, rather than the frightening enfant-horrific that gave us the Evil Dead.

The Possession

The Possession

Heroine of The Possession, Em (Natasha Calis) and her sister visit their separated father Clyde (Jeffery Dean Morgan) at his new home, in an unfinished development. At a yard sale, young Em encourages her dad to buy her an “innocent” antique box. But, as is so often the case with “innocent” antique boxes…there’s a Dibbuk in the box! In case you didn’t know Dibbuk is an ancient spirit that inhabits a host and eats its way out. As soon as Em gets home with her new old box, things go to all to hell (literally). Em begins to change, she wolfs her food, she, hears voices, talks to herself and there’s the small matter of a plague of moths fly out of her mouth.
The young woman goes a bit batty schtick, has been done so many times before and Bornedal cited films like The Exorcist as motivation, praising their subtleness. One of the better examples and a masterclass in tension, suspense, suspicion and frights was Rosemary’s Baby, now we get no suspense, no tension just lots of very obvious (and unshocking shocks). Probably why there was no point holding this “horror” movie back for Halloween.
More interesting than The Possession is the back story, based on a “real” (allegedly) haunted box, a wine cabinet which is said to be haunted by a dybbuk, a spirit from Jewish folklore. The story achieved national recognition after it was auctioned on eBay with the accompanying horror story.

The Possession

The Possession

The story goes that the box was bought at an estate sale in 2001. It had belonged to a Polish Holocaust survivor named Havela, who had escaped to Spain (where he purchased the box) before emigrating to the United States. Everyone who held the Box reported smells of cat urine or jasmine flowers followed by nightmares involving an old hag. The box’s owners became convinced that a dybbuk lived inside and the box was never opened, until it was sold at garage sale.

The box’s new owner opened it and say that it contained……(wait for it)……(build tension)….it contained two 1920s pennies, a lock of blonde hair bound with cord, a lock of black/brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word “Shalom”, a small, golden wine goblet, one dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs. The box was then sold on eBay, with the “haunted box” story generating the buzz and (at the risk of sounding cynical) pushing the price up.
And that was it, hardly enough for a real horror film.

The Possession was written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, based on an LA Times article by Leslie Gornstein, which told the story of the Dybbuk box after the first eBay auction. I feel that an actual documentary would have been a better use of everyone’s energies. By the time I’d left the theatre I was already forgetting “The Possession” is forgettable, it’s just yet another in a long line of generic ghost stories, desperately trying to whip up interested under the “based in real events” tag.