The Possession: Horror By Numbers

The latest multiplex horror film offers more of the same generic scares, along with the noteworthy presence of Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu.

I don’t know who decreed that we needed half-a-dozen toothless, grey-blue studio horror movies every year but, just like death and taxes, they’re a constant. This year’s demonic possession movie comes under the low-effort title of The Possession and offers almost nothing you’ve never seen before, except maybe a little girl trying to strangle Matisyahu.

Recently divorced basketball coach Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) buys his tween daughter Em (Natasha Calis) a mysterious box in a yard sale, and she almost immediately starts acting up, barfing up moths, eating raw pot roast and trying to kill everyone, which her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) assumes is a by-product of the divorce.

It’s not, of course: the girl’s got a demon in her. A dybbuk, more specifically; the malevolent spirit of Jewish folklore has taken hold of her body in order to pass into the physical realm. Clyde therefore enlists the help of a tuneful Hasidim (international reggae superstar Matisyahu, truly stretching his wings) in order to exorcise the demon.

This last part is about the only original thing that The Possession has going for it, and even that’s not that remarkable; the same ground was covered in the similarly unremarkable The Unborn a few years ago. The script piles on cliché after cliché, and director Ole Bornedal (making a tardy return to Hollywood fifteen years after Nightwatch) has a bag of tricks that’s limited mostly to a liberal sprinkling of ear-splitting sound effects and choppy editing.

The Possession cribs liberally from the genre (particularly Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell; unsurprisingly, Raimi has a producer credit on this one) without ever adding anything to it; it’s glum and self-serious, with some weirdly hammy supporting performances to make sure that you never actually get into it at any point. This type of movie is so plentiful and interchangeable that they seem to be created autonomously of human interaction; I guess that makes The Possession no better or worse than its ilk. Just bad. ■


The Possession opens Aug. 31

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