Now that the former has followed the latter onto Blu-ray and DVD, the difference is startlingly clear: The Possession is by far the superior ghost story. I’d expect nothing less from Evil Dead mastermind Sam Raimi, who produced it under his Ghost House Pictures banner, which has brought some of the better entries in the horror genre of late (Drag Me to Hell, 30 Days of Night) … as well as some of the worst (Boogeyman, Rise: Blood Hunter).
The malevolent figure of this one manifests itself in a Dibbuk box — an antique of Jewish religion said to house and confine an evil spirit. When a divorced dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Red Dawn) gives in to his youngest daughter (Natasha Calis, TV’s The Firm) and buys the box at a yard sale, he unwittingly brings 29 days’ worth of trouble into his new home. Let’s just say the little girl stops acting like her normal self.
The Possession is what a modest-budgeted studio horror film should be: slick, spooky (if not exactly scary) and solidly acted. I’m of the belief that Morgan, while often cast as tough and intimidating, convincingly exhibits an Everyman quality that can carry a film. I’m glad the story focuses on him, rather than his ex-wife (Kyra Sedgwick, TV’s The Closer). That’s not to say Sedgwick isn’t a good actress — I’m just tired of seeing so many of these things from the viewpoint of the not-so-skeptical single woman.
Among the supporting cast, the Hasidic reggae hip-hopper Matisyahu excels in the stock role of the deeply religious exorcist — a shrewd casting decision. One can’t say the same for Jay Brazeau (Watchmen) as the other clichéd expert sought out by the protagonist: the all-knowing college professor. Brazeau hams it up in a manner inconsistent with the otherwise sober tone established by Nightwatch director Ole Bornedal.
The film is based on a supposed true story, which is explored in a featurette on the Lionsgate release. While I don’t buy it, I’m glad to have heard it. Whether you believe in the existence of ghosts and/or curses, there’s one element here we can all agree on: The disc’s menu is freaky enough that I wouldn’t want to let it loop in the dark. —Rod Lott