THE POSSESSION – Review by Susan Granger

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Why should Catholicism be the only faith to experience possession, as evidenced in “The Exorcist” and “The Omen”? Reaching for equal opportunity horror, Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal (“Nightwatch,” “Just Another Love Story”) digs deep into the “Based on True Events” trunk to unearth a dibbuk. In Jewish folklore, a dibbuk is a malicious spirit that can capture the soul of an innocent person and, ultimately, devour it.

At a yard sale in upstate New York, 10 year-old Emily Brenek (Natasha Calis, who actually bears a slight resemblance to a young Linda Blair) finds an old, wooden box with Hebrew letters carved into it and she begs her father, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan,) to buy it. He’s a basketball coach and recently divorced from her mom, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), a jewelry designer. Like many an indulgent, ‘weekend’ father, he complies with her wishes. Pretty soon, she’s growling, gobbling food with a voracious appetite and spitting out giant moths. His ex-wife blames her ominous, anti-social behavior on Clyde, as does his sassy, often-hysterical elder daughter, Hannah (Madison Davenport). But Clyde’s colleague, Professor McMannis (Jay Brazeau), and a hip Judaic exorcist, Rabbi Tzakok (Hasidic rap/reggae fusion artist Matisyahu), believe that the box contained a dibbuk which has now gained demonic possession of Emily. After an MRI confirms it – a Jewish exorcism is scheduled.

Loosely based on a 2004 article in the Los Angeles Times by journalist Leslie Gornstein about the eBay auction of a “dybbuk box,” it’s superficially scripted by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (“Knowing”), formulaically directed by Bornedal and ‘presented’ (whatever that means) by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Special credit is given to the “moth wrangler” Brad MacDonald, who managed 2,000 live insects during one particularly spooky sequence. And Rabbi Shmuel Birnham is credited as the expert “Judaic Consultant.”

For genial Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Watchmen,” TV’s “Gray’s Anatomy”) and Emmy-winner Kyra Sedgwick (TV’s “The Closer”,) it was obviously a quick-and-easy paycheck.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Possession” is an underwhelming, supernatural 3 – somewhat creepy but easily forgettable.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.