As far as exorcism movies go there is little scope to develop the genre past the 1970s masterpiece ‘The Exorcist’. It is a shame to keep comparing, but that movie really is the defining film, and despite decades worth of progression in almost every other subgenre of horror, exorcism movies still maintain the formulaic scenes of contortion, weird voices and animalistic behaviour immortalised in Freidkin’s 1973 effort.
From this perspective, ‘The Possession’ isn’t set to buck the trend, but it still stands out as one of the better efforts of recent exorcism films.
Supposedly based on a true story this movie focuses on the possession of a young girl who unwittingly releases a Jewish demon from its wooden tomb. Imprisoned within a sacred box, once released it seeks to bond and possess its host. What we see is an already struggling family now having to put up with one hell of a stroppy preteen with an affinity for insects and violent behaviour. Naturally the condition worsens until the need for a Jewish exorcist is accepted.
See, very formulaic, although to its strength ‘The Possession’ doesn’t even try to mask it. Rather than getting weighted down with any symbolism, or too much of the no-one-can-accept-the-truth faff that normally occupies the first 40 minutes of these movies, ‘The Possession’ opts for a more episodic approach documenting each day of the girls gradual decline. The pace is quick, and despite some noticeably bad editing what is lost in character development is made up for in sheer entertainment value. It simply jumps from one scary set piece to the next with little substance in between. The movie isn’t particularly atmospheric, but the scares are plentiful thanks to some cool sound effects and minimalistic sound-track.
The possession parts of the movie are genuinely disturbing. The acting, by all the cast, including the two children is very convincing, and the fact that there are almost no other characters in the movie only enhances the isolation of the family to the rest of the world. The movies 15 certificate restricts the violence, so no crucifix-insertion here, although what you do see is grim enough. A few bumps and bruises, plus a little contortion is pretty much the worst of it – aside from one pretty disgusting scene where a dentist gets his own from the devil. None of the violence is overplayed, and the real life context ensures we are saved from any CGI silliness which undermines so many supernatural horrors.
Overall, ‘The Possession’ movie is simply a good watch. Critically it suffers from a lack of originality, and perhaps a slightly lacklustre finale, but for fans of the genre it does offer a surprising scary 90 minutes. As usual, its lights off, sound up and just sit back and enjoy.