The Possession (2012)

(On Cable TV, September 2012) Sometimes, you can judge a film by its title.  So it is that The Possession’s bland, forgettable, overused title also reflects a film that is, in most ways, absolutely unremarkable: From the something-awful-happens opening to the evil-survives-to-strike-again conclusion, all the way through a tiresome demonic possession plot, The Possession is by-the-numbers horror filmmaking, occasionally effective as earning an ouch or an eeew, but never quite working its way down in the murky basement of primal fears.  It’s safely conventional, and the film’s best moments aren’t in the sometimes-gratuitous violent supernatural episode as much as in the character work within an estranged family pulling apart.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t bad as the protagonist, a divorced father trying to hold on to his daughters’ affections even as one of them is taken over by a demon.  And there’s something rather unusual in seeing Hassidic Jews being brought in to help.  Still, there isn’t much more in The Possession than we haven’t seen before.  Director Ole Bornedal, in interviews (and in-between the usual twaddle about this being “based on a true story”) attempts to draw parallels between demonic possession and divorce, but the evidence for this thematic ambition just isn’t shown on-screen.  No amount of moderately successful execution manages to fill the big empty void in the middle of the script.  While there are many worse horror films out there, they are also plenty that are more engaging, more meaningful or better executed… so why waste time on something so disposable?

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