There are so many reasons to be excited about The Possession, the first being that Sam Raimi produced it. Sure, there’s no way of knowing just how much creative control he had in the film’s production but, if the director of The Evil Dead was involved in some way (even if he just sat there doodling all day), enjoyment is practically guaranteed. Secondly, the film was cut from an 18 rating to a 15, which isn’t always a good sign, but with horror films, it just means they’re supposedly so terrifying that the press office feels the need to soften the scares a bit. Also (and this is where it gets good), the film set was haunted. ‘Unexplained winds’ and ‘lights exploding’ were just a few of the ghostly occurrences that plagued the crew, and when the props were put into storage, a fire destroyed them all; a fire that started ‘from the inside’. Now how cool does that sound? However, once you actually start watching The Possession, you start to realise that the hype might have all been for nothing.
It’s an exorcism film – which are being churned out as fast as Step Up sequels at the moment (the last two years alone: Insidious, The Last Exorcism, Exorcismus, The Rite, The Devil Inside etc.) and this one is sadly as average as they come. Just look at how cliché the plot is: two sisters, Emily and Hannah, are shared between their divorced parents. On the way to their father’s new house they stop off at an ancient-looking garage sale and Emily’s heart is set on buying a heavy wooden box inscribed with strange Hebrew symbols, so of course she buys it. Back at dad’s house, she manages to pry the box open and the curse begins to take effect – she starts to talk to herself in the mirror and swarms of moths inhabit her bedroom. To make matters worse, the father forgets to go to Hannah’s dance recital (I’m pretty sure that happens in every film ever made). In the end the parents are forced to unite in order to save their daughter, and they enlist the help of a Jewish exorcist, who discovers the demon is named Abizo, ‘the killer of children’. It’s so formulaic, you start to wonder why they even bothered.
Having said that, there are definitely some interesting things to say about The Possession. I’m guessing everyone has seen the trailer, in which Emily shines a torch into her mouth and sees a couple of fingers emerging from the top of her larynx, the idea being that the demon is physically living inside her, and admittedly this is pulled off relatively well (this is probably Raimi’s contribution – he likes hands surfacing from unnatural places), but that’s as far as it goes in trying to be unique. Also, while The Possession might not be scary, you have to congratulate it for not resorting to the Paranormal Activity technique of slamming doors to make the audience jump in their seats – the film actually tries hard to be terrifying.
But to be honest, I’m becoming very tired of the recent batch of 15 rated horror films. Yes, film companies want to make as much money as possible and most 18 rated films these days aren’t very successful financially but that’s no excuse for audiences having to endure this substandard quality in horror films that we’ve all come to accept as normal. The Possession couldn’t hold a candle to any of its predecessors such as The Exorcist, The Omen or The Amityville Horror because of this infuriating constraint of having to appeal solely to a teenage audience. If this constraint were removed (or if it were the 1970s), this would have been a much better film. Try harder.