Thursday, October 09, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #9: THE POSSESSION (2012)

The Story: A divorcee grows concerned when his youngest daughter becomes obsessed with a dubbyk box, and unexplainable things start happening in his new house.

Expectations: Sam Raimi and Rob Tappert's Ghost House Pictures has a pretty impressive track record: THE GRUDGE (2004), BOOGEYMAN (2005), THE MESSENGERS (2007), 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007), DRAG ME TO HELL (2009), etc.  The producers deliver a certain type of supernatural horror movie, which is technically impressive and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the horror genre.  My only reservation is that some of these films tend to be a bit too cartoonish at times, but this is a matter of personal taste and I would never argue that their style isn't consistently entertaining.  That said, I had fairly high hopes for THE POSSESSION.

Reaction: Watching this film, I realized that I've grown very tired of the "based on a true story" haunted house formula that has dominated the genre since roughly 2008.   In my last "30 Days of Nightmares" marathon, I gravitated toward paranormal horror over slasher films or zombie films.  Now I'm trying to steer away from paranormal horror, because I feel like everything's been done. 
Watching THE POSSESSION, all I could think was: "It's the Jewish EXORCIST...."  All the elements are there: broken family, cursed object, vulnerable teenage girl, reluctant young savior, even a horrific MRI scene. 

As with any Ghost House picture, there are some imaginative set pieces (including one where a hand appears in the back of a girl's throat -- a striking visual that could have been in THE GRUDGE) but the narrative is overly-familiar and the character development cursory.  The whole thing eventually falls flat with a smoke-and-mirrors, sound-and-fury light show that strives desperately to make something interesting out of nothing new.  I was left with the overwhelming feeling that this subgenre needs to disappear for a while, so that filmmakers and audiences alike can recuperate.  Bottom line: THE POSSESSION is not an unwatchable movie, just tiresome for a horror fan.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: For me, the most interesting twist was a scene in which the invisible demon frames the father as a child-abuser.  Unfortunately, this scene doesn't have as much punch as it could have.  The viewer knows immediately that the father is innocent, and the other characters quickly figure it out too.  This seems like a missed opportunity.  What could be scarier for a father than being accused of abusing your own child?  Well... how about not knowing if you actually did it or not? And what could be more frightening for a child than being abused by an invisible demon?  Well... how about being abused by a parent?  If these ideas had been explored, THE POSSESSION could have been a much more serious and frightening film.

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