This review may contain spoilers.
One of the key elements of a truly scary movie is the inability to escape from whatever is threatening life and limb, but being unable to do so -- even when acting intelligently. It's pretty much the first thing any one thinking of making a horror film must understand. Which brings me to the well produced, well meaning, but ultimately tame horror flick called "The Possession."
Produced by "Evil Dead" horror maestro Sam Raimi, "The Possession" is serious, well acted (Jefferey Dean Morgan is excellent), beautifully shot, and features an incredible soundtrack -- but simply isn't scary. Essentially a take on "The Exorcist," part of the problem is the basic structure of the script, which sets up a fairly unbelievable family situation -- mom and dad are divorced, but still talk and act as though they weren't -- which slices away believability right from the outset (hurt even more by the miscasting of Kyra Sedgwick as mom). But a much bigger problem is that the film forgets the most basic rule of terror -- the inability to escape.
The possessed girl in "The Exorcist" isn't the one doing the scares (although she does kill one character), rather it's the inability of her mother and group of very smart men to help her. She can't escape from herself, Mom can't run away from her child (neatly taking care of rule one), and the men around her can't figure out how to fix her.
In "The Possession," the possessed child is used as the instrument of scares rather than as the victim. She is made to look like the twin sister of the girl who becomes a zombie in "Night of the Living Dead" -- dark circles under evil looking eyes, and at one point, a sharp trowel shaped piece of glass to stab her mother. At other times, she is lit to look like the girl from the well in "The Ring." Without a doubt, the film makers want us to be scared of her.
The result is remarkably ineffective, despite a complex lighting scheme and score. Beyond the strange focal point of terror, the movie is cut like an action film -- there are several leaps forward in time. For instance, the dad goes from not understanding a thing to being an expert in Jewish exorcisms, all in about three minutes. When the possessed child grievously wounds her would be stepdad, who is trying to get her to the hospital, the film then flash forwards to the hospital -- never to mention this rather large character again. Not only totally unbelievable, it also completely let the air out of a big scene that had potential for lots more scares.
The style of the film is very old school -- the music and camera work harken back to old Universal films -- but this is a movie that simply screams out to be shot in the first person point of view style made famous by "The Blair Witch Project." The constant musical stabs and quick cutting effectively kills any tension that the film manages to build up. While there are a few good chills, this film could have -- should have been -- much scarier. A good, but ultimately misguided effort.
3 "Kyra Sedgwick's casting was the scariest thing in this film" out of 5.
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