This is essentially the problem faced by every demonic possession film that's come along in the 40 years since The Exorcist brought pea soup spew to the masses: it's impossible to beat, so what can you bring to the table to differentiate yourself? As I noted in my review for Beyond the Door, possession flicks either tend to rip-off The Exorcist or separate themselves from the pack by going down a more "realistic" road, which basically means that less gnarly makeup is used (such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which employs a dramatic courtroom framing narrative, and The Devil Inside and The Last Exorcism, which utilize a POV/found footage/documentary setup). Then you have The Antichrist, which is Exorcist-gnarly but jazzes up the proceedings with profane sex.
So. There I sit in front of The Possession (2012), all arms crossed and jaw a-juttin', asking what it's got to say for itself. Daring it to thrill me with something new...although I know that it doesn't really matter if its stale as a month-old loaf o' rye or as fresh as a macaroni salad beneath a Tupperware seal, on some level I'm going to like it because I'm a sucker for possession flicks. It doesn't mean I won't call out crap on its crappiness. It just means I've got a soft spot for 'em, as one might have for old people or young people or dogs wearing tights.
Wait, what was I talking about before I got distracted by Tupperware and dogs in tights (it happens all the time)? Ah! The Possession! Does it bring anything new to the subgenre? Well...the demon is Jewish and it lives in a box.
It's true! Divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) stops at a yard sale and buys his daughters any old thing they want. Em (Natasha Calis) picks up a dybbuk box, which unbeknownst to everyone houses all sorts of demonic fuckery and oh my crap I'm just imagining a horror movie yard sale extravaganza featuring this box and the possessed floor lamp from Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes and why oh why hasn't there been an anthology film featuring a yard sale as the framing narrative? Or has there been? If so, tell me immediately. If not, get me Hollywood on Line 1 and let's get this shit made!
Anyway, oh. This movie. Well, it's fine. You know how it goes: Em gets really attached to the box and then starts acting out and then she really starts acting out and then she's possessed and then there's an exorcism and then the end. But did I mention it's Jewish? Yes. There's a delightful scene in which Clyde travels to the mysterious, far away, exotic land known as "Brooklyn" and gets out of his BMW only to find himself literally surrounded by, like, a hundred Hasidic fellows. Clyde stares in rapt wonder, like he's out on a fucking safari and he's stumbled across a herd of gazelles in a clearing or something, and it's hilarious.
While this different cultural angle is welcome, it's not really enough to elevate The Possession into the realm of must see. Although I like that the demon is treated as a tangible thing- it got out of its box, y'all gotta get it back in the box and oh my crap it's kind of like a Pokemon- the movie remains akin to, say, soggy Golden Grahams all swole-up with milk. Yes, I'll eat them, but they are not as satisfying as all the crunchy Golden Grahams that came before and perhaps my time would be better spent eating something else.
Now she's kvetching and verklempt
Like I said, it's all fine. There are a couple of inspired creepy moments. The final showcase showdown between the forces of good and evil aren't really anything you haven't seen before (albeit Jewish-ier)- I mean, there's even someone yelling "Take her, not me!" and all that, which...really? You're just going to straight-up hump The Exorcist's leg like that, The Possession? For shame. For shame.
Several other reviews have touted the family dynamics at the heart of the film, how they really provide backbone and blah blah blah and while Clyde and Co are all perfectly lovely people...isn't nearly every possession flick a family drama at the core? A beloved family member (usually a female, what up with that) isn't quite acting herself and the rest of the relations must figure shit out and save her? Seems that way. Although, I suppose I shouldn't be so flip in the face of a wee bit of character development, lest all the other horror movies in pre-production her me and think that such a thing doesn't matter. Because it does!
While The Possession certainly didn't thrill me, I did not hate it or even actively dislike it, I suppose...but that's just not good enough in this post-Exorcist world! The power of Pazuzu compels you to go big or go home and you, The Possession, need to be stuffed back into your Dybbuk box and...and...ugh why didn't this movie end with the Dybbuk box exploding like the possessed floor lamp did? Now that would have earned this flick a spot in the Demonic Hall of Fame for sure.