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on April 16, 2013
This movie was superb! Although the scares are sporadic, the story was intriguing and suspenseful. I was never bored. After watching horror movies for 40 years, I don't care for slasher films. I prefer intelligent, suspenseful horror with good acting and a great ending. This movie fits the bill. I recommend it for those who prefer stylish horror. Best of all, there are no vomiting scenes. I hate that!
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on March 22, 2013
I watch a lot of horror movies. Have for years. I was feeling numb to them but this one got me! Actually turned on the lights. Really great twists. This is not an Exorcist rip off. This one is based on old Jewish mythology of the dibbuk. A human who is so evil they are condemned to live as deamons for all time. The DVD includes the story behind the story and it is facinating.

I cannot say I have seen many movies that feature religious Jews. I am not Jewish so I am not exactly looking for them. This one introduces a Jewish exorcism which is not like the catholic one at all. I was facinated by that. A glimpse into a world I never see,

I have never seen a horror movie where a religious Jew was the hero.
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on September 3, 2012
This was okay. But Raimi fans will find no Drag Me to Hell gross-out gore and generally horror fans will not see original scenes (regarding scares), provocative possession behavior, or unique plot elements. The newer you are to the genre (or, possession or demon box movies, per se) the more you will enjoy this finely prepared, but under-seasoned meal. While perfectly competent for a horror, let's call it the "Diet Coke" of exorcism; a series of missed opportunities and pulled punches.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), Em[ily] (Natasha Calis) and her older sister are a family recently sundered by a rather civil divorce. But when young Em becomes fond of an antique puzzle box she finds at a yard sale things start to get strange. Em becomes temperamental, graduating to obsessive about the box while apathetic (even sociopathic) of the needs or wants of others. Clyde begins to suspect a malevolent force is at work and seeks the aid of the Hasidic elders, from whom we learn about demons (or dibbuks), their specially crafted, imprisoning boxes, and exorcism.

Most truly impressive was our young Natasha Calis as Em. She did an amazing job showing us that as the demon commanded more and more of her conscious self (to the point of entirety) that underneath she was aware of her uncharacteristic, marionetted actions. Her expressive eyes were the key. Somehow malevolent on the possessed outside, while only thinly veiling the sadness and desperation of the scared child trapped within behind the evil veneer. As her desperate and fearful father, Jeffrey Dean Morgan also does a spectacular job as the serial-recipient of her cold, lifeless gazes. But all of this amazing tone contributed to only minor tension with no real follow-through. The scares really weren't there for me--not even a bit, short of being taken off guard by blaring loud noises which, while a classic tactic, should come with a little more than just a lone, pounding instrumental note. I feel like they pulled too many punches--or simply didn't have the muscle to throw them in the first place. No exorcism should be devoid of offensive material, but this movie was completely inoffensive. This is really like an Exorcist-lite movie; the "Diet Coke" of exorcism movies; a series of missed opportunities or, perhaps even, a Disney-appropriate version of The Exorcist. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however. That is, unless, you enjoy R-rated horror movies. Some PG-13's pull it off--this one didn't.

The only truly unique moment of the film was a brief scene of moths hurricaning around Em's bedroom. Everything else has been done before--not that I'm suggesting it's easy to produce something you've never seen in a horror flick nowadays. The exorcism scene in the end is stunningly similar, even copied, to that of The Unborn (2008), as is the general Jewish demon premise (with a few tweaks).

To the seasoned viewer, this film might come off as at least a little bit boring when the filmmakers aren't trying to scare you with loud noises (and little clout to back them). I kept feeling a bit of the Sam Raimi vibe, but just when I thought it would hit with something shocking, gastro-intestinally gross and gory, or totally twisted--it wouldn't happen! Instead I just got dirty Ring-Grudge hands, a swarm zombie moths, whited-out "possessed" eyes, and a bunch of child-gone-wrong temper tantrums. There were also some significant plot holes--not that that's a surprise in a horror film--which didn't even get a nod. For example, something awful happens to Stephanie's boyfriend and he vanishes from the movie, then everyone behaves as if he was never there whereas earlier he was playing a father-replacement role much to Clyde's chagrin. Then there was the fact that there was a horribly bandaged woman in the house where they bought the dibbuk box--ever think to go ask them about it before turning to obscure experts? I saw the ending coming from a mile away but, as a serious horror fan, I still appreciated the oft-told ominous closing message.

In the end this was a perfectly competent, well-acted horror film with a less common spin on a quite common story. A little too light for my taste, but heavy-handed horror and sacrilegious scenarios are not for everyone. If you are "not everyone" then maybe this very PG possession movie is for you.

SIDBAR: This movie is a slightly different take on The Unborn (2009), in which Odette Annabel/Yustman is plagued by her unborn Dibbuk demon twin--not The Unborn (1991), in which a woman has a mutant, murderous baby a la It's Alive (1974, 2008 remake). On that note, let's just snuff out the fact that sooo many people are thrilled to see "this new take" on "the first Jewish exorcism" movie. It's not. It's at least the second and is basically a reboot with some scenes remade from The Unborn. This movie is also in no way related to the ultra-weird and cerebral Possession (1981, with Sam Neil).

BIPOLAR REVIEWS: Hop on to IMDB as scan the already numerous reviews and you'll find that everyone is loving or loathing this flick. My guess is that the loathers have seen far more horror flicks than the lovers.
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There's been a rash of exorcism-style films these last few years. Some of them have been good, and, naturally, some of them have been bad. It could be that this trend is little more than an industry going through its creativity cycle, rediscovering some of what produces more authentic scares from yesteryear - that being stories grounded in reality - for audiences who've grown accustomed to and thus dismissive of more special-effects-heavy gore. I tend to believe that there's something a bit different going on; I think that we - as a society - tend to reach out for a renewal of these spirits-inhabiting-another tales when we're going through some cultural upheavals. Instead of accepting that Tinseltown drives us, I prefer to think that we tap find these special places all on our own. Then, some clever scriptwriters trap lightning in a bottle, and viola! That same ol' exorcism is now back in vogue!

(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you're the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to my last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few hints at `things to come,' then read on ...)

Clyde Brenek (played by the reliable Jeffrey Dean Morgan) recently separated from his wife, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick). When their youngest daughter, Emily (Natasha Calis), begins displaying some weirdly erratic behaviors, they and her school are quick to chalk it all up to the inevitable side effect of a marriage in collapse. However, the girl's creeping obsession with an ornate, antique wooden box she picked up from a yard sale borders on the insane. As Clyde begins to research more about the item, he realizes he has something very tragic and very unique in his possession: it's known as a Dibbuk box. It's meant to contain a dislocated spirit. To his dismay, Em has opened the box, and now the entity is slowly devouring her soul.

Director Ole Bornedal manages to squeeze a bit more life out of the traditional exorcism picture by sticking with mostly classical film techniques - inexorably slow pans and eases and tricks with light and shadow - whereas a more contemporary director would've tried to likely incorporate some CGI sequences. There's nothing big and bold here. This is traditional filmmaking, and it works. By sticking with what's tried and true, Bornedal elevates the story to that of legitimacy, letting the script from Juliet Snowden and Stiles White effectively breathe in that atmosphere.

Also, it doesn't hurt matters that the tale heavily straddles some common family issues - dad and mom are divorced, the kids are getting used to the separation, mom has another man in the picture whilst dad is considering relocating elsewhere for work - as these all tend to complement the dynamic of not only a family but also a greater society in flux. That dynamic gives more credibility to an undercurrent that's unsettling, giving these characters some added depth. It all adds up in creating an environment where a spectral entity could, perhaps, seek out and find residence amongst the weak, so it's clear that all players have done their homework in legitimizing the stresses.

In fact, most of THE POSSESSION works precisely because it comes across as heavily grounded in real events. (Indeed, the script is based on actual occurrences, though the accompanying documentary - a special feature - gives a much different accounting of events.) The smart script never cheapens the relationships; the production team never resorts to flashy pyrotechnics to get across the frights; and what emerges is a welcome return to the good, old-fashioned, conventional ghost story. There's evil out there, and it needs one of us in order to be free. It's all made cohesive through the commitments of a solid cast and crew.

THE POSSESSION (Rated PG-13) is produced by Ghost House Pictures and North Box Productions. DVD distribution is being handled through Lionsgate. As for the technical specs, the film looks and sounds remarkable; there are a few moments when I cranked up the center volume to hear some of the ghost's whispery dialogue, but, alas, there's nothing the audience needs to hear specifically. The disc has two separate commentary tracks - the first is from Bornedal, and the second is from scriptwriters Snowden and White. Furthermore, there's a brief documentary explored the truth behind the fiction, treating viewers to a look at the real Dibbuk Box. Also, there's an assortment of trailers.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I didn't see how THE POSSESSION really brought anything all that new, novel, or unique to the `exorcism' genre, but there's something to be said for legitimate creepiness in the age of special effects. Still, it's better than most films of this sort that have come along in quite some time. There are some very solid moments grounding the picture between the players - Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Natasha Calis, especially - that elevate the story to another level. Additionally, there's a lot of solid camera work that helps work up the tension to palpable levels, though some of the trickery falls predictably thin in the climax. Worth its scares in gold, though.

In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Lionsgate provided me with a DVD screener copy of THE POSSESSION for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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VINE VOICEon January 21, 2013
Inspired by LA Times writer Leslie Gornstein's article "A Jinx in a Box," this horror film from Ghost House Pictures tells the tale of a broken family that comes under attack from a malevolent supernatural entity of Jewish folklore. Shortly after her parents (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick) divorce, a young girl purchases an ornate antique box at a yard sale. In the weeks that follow, the young girl forms an intense fixation on the box, her behavior growing increasingly bizarre as she falls into the grip of a diabolical apparition. When the girl's father discovers that the relic is in fact a holding cell for the disconnected soul of a deceased person who has been denied entry into the afterlife and needs a human host to inhabit, he fights to rid her of the evil that threatens to consume her body and soul.

I really enjoyed this movie, it was a lot better than I expected. I thought Jeffrey Dean Morgan did a excellent job and Natasha Calis was wonderful as Em, the daughter who becomes obsessed with the box. It's not your typical ghost story and I think because Sam Raimi was one of the producers, people expected it to be really, really scary and while it was scary, it doesn't have a lot of blood and gore. It reminds me of Drag Me to Hell, which was another Sam Raimi movie that wasn't really bloody or gory but yet it was scary and really good as well. The ending makes me wonder if there will be a part 2.

Give this movie a chance, I think if you watch it with a open mind, you will be pleasantly surprised at how good it really is and it will also make you think twice about buying stuff from a yard sale!
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on February 6, 2013
Some people act as if puking is a sign of Satan. Really? If that is the big deal for the devil then I guess millions of people are possessed after they have been out drinking too much, or eating bad seafood. Come on! Don't disrespect this unique and well made movie because the little girl didn't puke green pea soup or get busy with the Crucifix. That is SO 1973! This story was well written and the filmography was excellent. It had some intense scenes but nothing to make you turn away from the screen. I thought some of the graphics pertaining to the demon were quite disturbing without being plain disgusting. I gave it the full five stars because it -on its own merit- was an excellent movie. Yes, I agree that if we compare it to some of the more grisly offerings from 1973 forward it is not as SHOCKING --but not every movie is written for SHOCK VALUE. This was first and foremost a love story. I will leave it at that because I do not want to drop any spoilers. Listen, if you are looking for a lot of puke and demons speaking through kids to tell the parent that she wears army boots, this probably is not your best choice. If you want repulsive blood and guts, rent or purchase Descent and Descent II. Those are freaky, disgusting but very good movies. This one, I contend is very good, and quite freaky --just not disgusting. I would be willing to bet that you will not look down your throat in the mirror the same ever again. And every time you cough, you will think of this movie. Oh yeah. It's subtle, but effective.
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on November 11, 2014
I recently watched a different movie about an exorcism, an ecumenical exorcism no less, which I found very amusing; especially since it was suypposed tone about the birth of a mythological Jewish demon known as a Dybuuk or something of that nature. It was like, hey everybody let's have an exorcism party, everybody's invited. very strange.

anyhow, I enjoyed The Possession but I wish their weren't so many convenient plot holes but it does work.
There are some glaring gaps in logic which I find impossible to reconcile; for instance, how is it that the evil trapped within the box can still exert itself to the outside world. In theory, the box is supposed to be a blessed, ancient Judaic holy vessel made specifically to contain the evil.
It's too bad the dentist get's killed; he and the mother were made for each other. She sounded like a real pain in the you know what. The biological father is a very likable fellow although the extent of his patience is unreal.

In the end we get a glimpse of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the enclave of Orthodox Judaism and the scene with the elders is very believable and it makes sense. Deciding to hold the exorcism in the physical rehab room in the hospital basement wit all that screaming and mayhem going on is a bit ridiculous, I mean the entire hospital must have known something was going on but at least in The Possession it was a Rabbi who conducted the exorcism.

The ending is an unpleasant surprise, the death of the heroic young Rabbi who follows his conscience (and finds a loophole in Rabbinical Scripture) rather than chickening out is heartbreaking, but there again is the plot hole that runs throughout the movie.
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on August 11, 2015
I had to sleep with the tv on a comedy channel. I didn't expect this spook movie would leave me wishing I hadn't watched it alone. Watch this with someone who wouldn't mind having his skin clawed into with every intensely frightful scene.
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on June 8, 2015
Good acting,
Good story, you care about the cast, and story.
Unexpected, overall good film.
Scare meter 3/3

Does this box, power the girl into deep dark problems.
Will they save the family?
Will the girl live?
review image
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on February 21, 2015
Intended by the writers to be another classic horror story (supposedly based on a true story), this film fell far short of scaring anyone with its 2-dimensional production. I believe the screenplay was probably well-written as the story has potential to be terrifying. However, the direction and camera work is so flat, the horror-factor mis-timed and direction so un-original that I found little in this film that frightened me (and I'm a chicken at heart, especially for demonic entities). Key parts of the film seemed to copy other successful movies in this genre: [SPOILER ALERT] the possessed Em suddenly looks a lot like the girl on The Ring, the entity is a clone of Golam in Lord of the Rings and the final shot is a mirrored image of Jumanji (minus the beating drums).

I've given this film three stars because I liked the set (filmed in an old insane assylum) and the actors. The storyline is what carries this movie and in the hands of a more experienced director, would have been a great film. Watch this at home in the dark but don't expect to be scared.
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