THE POSSESSION helps channel the Halloween Spirit!

September is always a transformational time for me. Not only because it’s the month of my birth but also because, for me, it represents the true beginning of the Halloween season. You always hear folks talking about the “Christmas Spirit” but rarely such sentiment in regards to All Hallows Eve. Well I’m hear to tell you it’s a very REAL phenomena and one I experience every year around this time.

Its got nothing to do with the actual date on the calender nor our consumer driven society that sees “Back to School” sales as early as late July and “Spirit” Halloween shops opening at the end of August. Nope, for me it’s an actual epiphany of sorts and one that strikes me without notice! I can now report that my 2012 divine inspiration occurred just this past Thursday.

I made plans to see Sam Raimi’s latest feature,  THE POSSESSION, with my friend, Elizabeth. I have to say that when it comes to films depicting demonic possession I have ZERO expectations. Let’s face it, everything created since THE EXORCIST (including its own sequels) has been a giant let-down! In fact, the last one I saw earlier this year (THE DEVIL INSIDE review HERE) was more than just a let-down it was a PLUMMET! By the time it abruptly ended, I was ready to hang myself with my Grandma’s Rosary beads!

There were no Rosaries nor Christian iconography of any kind to be found in this feature, however. THE POSSESSION takes a different approach by dealing with demons from a Jewish perspective. Based on a short article called “A Jinx in a Box,” I found this story to be a more refreshing perspective in lieu of  Catholic Exorcisms having taken one too many trips around the cinematic block!

Clyde Brenek (whom genre fans will recognize as Sam & Dean Winchester’s dad from “Supernatural,” Jeffrey Dean Morgan) newly divorced from Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) has started building a new life for himself. He’s got lofty ambitions for his basketball coaching career, bought himself a new home, and enjoys spending time with his two daughters during weekend visitations. This caused me to identify with his character as I am newly separated, have recently moved into a condo, and enjoy seeing my kids on weekends too. It was hard not seeing them on a daily basis but now that I have all week to plan fun things during our times together, its not so bad. After watching THE POSSESSION, I can safely scratch “visiting yard sales” OFF that list!

Brenek takes his girls to a local rummage sale and, like any guilt-ridden daddy who’s competing against a wife who has herself a new boyfriend, urges them to buy whatever they want. This comes back and bites him the ass as his youngest daughter, Em, sets her sights on an old wooden box adorned with Hebrew text. While not something you’d see most kids gravitating towards, it is a rather cool piece and would no doubt be a hit on TV’s “Antiques Roadshow” (Hebrew 1920’s box from Poland…$5,000)!

Unfortunately, this is no ordinary heirloom as it also contains the trapped soul of a demon (whom the Jews refer to as a dibbuk)  that’s eager to devour the spirit of its young, new owner (Soul-sucking, angry-as-hell demonic entity included…$10,000 + contract for Scy Fy Channel original series). It isn’t long before bringing her new acquisition home before Em starts to act strangely. This includes rolling her eyes around, staring into space, and checking her father’s tenderness by literally sticking a fork in him!

I have to say, this isn’t a bad movie and certainly more entertaining than the bulk of possession films out there. I liked hearing a bit of Jewish lore and thought some of the imagery was effective. Incidentally, if moths give you the heebie jeebies, you may want to steer clear of this one. My biggest gripe was that the horror end of this tale seemed to be given a back seat to the inane human drama and I wanted ex-wife, Stephanie, to get Exorcised from the picture completely (oops, there I go over-identifying again). There’s lots of tension between Clyde and Stephanie, Stephanie’s annoying boyfriend (who literally blows out of the film the minute his character becomes unnecessary), and growing animosity between Clyde and his self-absorbed older daughter, Hannah. In fact, there’s so much going on you half expect Em to pound her fist on the kitchen table and yell, “HELLO??? I’m possessed over here!!!”

Eventually the characters are all on the same page and a Rabbi is brought in to handle the situation. While inexperienced in the field of demon-hunting, both he and the spirit work wonders at healing broken families. In fact, they make it look so easy you’d swear had this couple spent just 5 minutes in marriage counseling they could have saved $1,000’s in legal fees!

I was also a bit confused by the physical aspects of possession going on in this film. Anybody who doesn’t believe in the supernatural would be hard pressed to dispute it when they ask Em to “open wide” and the demon does all but flash them the Peace sign! There’s also a scene where the demon actually appears on a hospital MRI! I’m still trying to decide if this was an ingenious, creepy touch or just plain cheesy.

While you can definitely wait for home video, I have no regrets making the journey to see this. Towards the end of the film, when the viewer gets to see the demon crawling across the floor, it suddenly hit me. Yes, that glorious “My God, Halloween is almost here!” moment I spoke of earlier. The demon howled, Elizabeth flinched in her seat, and I glowed! Now before you take this as a big endorsement of the film, I should probably mention that last year’s horror-gasm took place at Target when I saw the first seasonal boxes of Count Chocula for sale.

Oh well…leave it to that crazy dibbuk to put me in the mood! (one dorky fanboy getting into the Halloween spirit…priceless!).

Dave Fuentes~

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