The Possession came with good pedigree with Danish director Ole Bornedal (of the two morgue-set Nightwatch movies - the original Danish language version and the US remake with Ewan McGregor) and producer Sam (the Evil Dead) Raimi on board the demonic ghost train to the heart of this Frighfest 2012 European premiere.
While the film did nothing new with the possessed child genre it was well shot and contained a few, mostly family-friendly scares. In the US the rating was toned down on appeal, to reach a wider audience - the Twilight generation if you like, but all horror fans can have fun with this one, whether hardened or hormonal.
I was sitting next to a couple on one side of me, for this penultimate Frighfest screening and one of the two had their head burrowed in the other's arms after a couple of the scares. On the other side of me, a group of young lads, probably not 18, looking like they could face anything on screen and not bat an eyelid - by the end of the film, at least a couple had jumped and sworn under their breath. Result Raimi!
Two young sisters join newly divorced Dad in his suburban home while Mum goes to the opera with her new dentist boyfriend. Dad lets the youngest daughter buy a weird wooden Dibbuk (demon inside - no extra charge) box at a jumble sale without realising it contains the terror of Judaism within - a spirit that seeks out the young and innocent (naturally, as what spirit would seek out very old drunken men with bad personal hygiene to live in, although - hey, what a movie that would make!).
The younger daughter gets possessed and all hell breaks loose (well, up to a PG-13 certificate in the US anyway!).
I loved the roaming sky-high camera looking down on the rows of suburban houses like a waiting spirit in the sky and the soundtrack that was composed of a deep note piano refrain, that occasionally turned into the soundtrack of Jaws for some reason. There were a number of unexpected scares involving teeth, deep throat, books in bed and bad table manners. Some of these shocks gave me a bad dose of the shiveries. The CAT scan was the most terrifying sequence in a horror film I've seen in a while. You know what's coming, but when it does - goosebumps on tap!
Best surprise of all, was that the girl playing the possessed younger sister, easily slunk into the rank and file of demonic movie kids alongside the evil likes of The Omen's Damien and The Exorcist's Regan. Possessed Em sitting on a swing in her short grey dress and Wellington boots glowering at the camera with black-ink filled eyes and wild hair blowing in the breath of a demonic breeze, sent chills to the base of the spine and back up again. Natasha Calis as Evil Em is a revelation - as convincingly in need of being saved as she is of being staked through the heart and splashed with holy water.
As a penultimate movie at Frightfest 2012, The Possession was a fun time to be had by all, and it's refreshing that a traditional demonic possession flick can still be as rewarding today in the horror genre as it has been in the past. While in an increasingly real-life hard-edged and randomly violent world, extreme horror and films with 'hoodies' as the boogeyboys probably deservedly thrive, and have a right to exist and confront fears of a modern age, while annoying those old enough to remember the original The Omen at the cinema (and it's right that horror films do annoy the older generation and cause controversy), there is still a place for old-fashioned fright films such as The Possession in modern horror. We've been here before in The Possession's world of targeted scariness, but there's enough that's different about this movie, to ensure longevity, especially the demonic exorcism by a young, fabulously deadpan, gangly and witty Jewish expert on all things demonic doing a job that his elders refuse to even consider being a part of - and the special effects too, including the deep throat crawling of nasties up and down the gullet, all earn The Possession real kudos for me.
The film is beautifully framed and while the ending in the hospital basement is perhaps a bit silly and contrived, it's a great ride to be on, and features enough contortions and red-eyed growling in the light of an overhead bulb or gloomy shadows to hold the attention. There were also at least a couple of deaths in this movie that I didn't expect and in the case of the last of these, the audience actually gasped when the moment came - also a moment that earned the legendary Frightfest rare round of applause. You can't ask for more in the closing hours of a five day long festival of horrors both sickening and, just sometimes, a little bit more magical and old-school demonic.
The Filmburn Files blog: http://markgordonpalmer.blogspot.co.uk