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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Possession | Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, Grant Show, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Possession | Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, Grant Show, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu | Review

The title says it all, as yet another innocent girl is forced to play host to a malevolent tenant, renting to own her body and soul.  Here’s a twist – her dad actually paid for it to happen, although he had no idea at the time…

An ornate wooden box covered in Hebrew carvings is purchased at a yard sale by Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) for his 10-year-old daughter Emily (Natasha Calis).  He’s a divorced, non-custodial dad so he’s full of guilt and she REALLY wants the box.

How is he or anyone to know of the box’s terrible secret, which will take him half of the film’s length to discover?  As Emily goes through frightening changes Clyde must battle unseen forces and those of his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and her boyfriend Brett (Grant Show) who just don’t believe what’s going on. Even Clyde’s other daughter Hannah (Madison Davenport) gives him a hard time.  There are always a few of those in a film like this.

The big, bad box uses its powers inconsistently; it’s nastier to women than men.  A female tries to smash it with a hammer and is pummeled nearly to death herself, yet a man can throw it in a dumpster with no consequences.  That could have been explored a little further for clarity’s sake.

As you will find in all films of this type, there must be a quest for “someone who knows the background” of the object.  Only then can the parasitic entity be banished.  Don’t look for a crucifix, either.  There’s not a Jesuit in sight, but there is the son of a Rabbi named Tzadok (Matisyahu) who agrees to help Clyde with his pre-teen terror.  Equal time for the Old Testament and all that.  It’s only fair.

The very likeable Jeffrey Dean Morgan scoops the audience onto Clyde’s side from the start and holds them there.  Kyra Sedgwick gives Stephanie a bitchy, brittle edge as the non-believing spouse.  Grant Show is there mostly for show.  Madison Davenport is a natural as Hannah, the one all this is NOT happening to.

And then there’s Natasha Calis, who turns in a multi-faceted performance as ravaged, moody, ominous and perpetually hungry Emily.  Her expressive eyes run the gamut, from fear and vulnerability to malevolent revulsion and spite.  The little vegetarian becomes a ravenous carnivore, crying because she can’t stop herself – a truly skilled and unnerving performance.

Danish director Ole Bornedal (Just Another Love Story) and first-time screenwriter Leslie Gornstein have fashioned a decidedly formulaic but well crafted, and creepy tale, based on a true story.  Gornstein wrote a 2004 article for the Los Angeles Times describing the Ebay sale of such a box (called a dybbuk box) and the resulting bad luck it brought its owners.  Bornedal helms an understated film that’s more like a sinister touch in a dark room rather than a screeching gore fest, much to his credit.  Blood flows, but in a trickle, not a waterfall.

Produced by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Spider Man 2) The Possession follows some tried and true paths, but veers off of them just enough to hold interest.  At least you’ll think twice about buying ornate wooden boxes of mysterious origin, especially if they start to sing and whisper.

Dybbuk should NOT stop here.

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