Movie Review of “The Possession”

The Possession (2012)

Directed by: Ole Bornedal

Release Date: August 31, 2012 (Wide)

Rating: 6.50 out of 10

Review by: George Beremov

Much like every other exorcism-related horror film, The Possession will be unavoidably compared to William Friedkin’s timeless classic, which set the bar unattainably high back in 1973. While Bornedal’s latest feature is not even half as compelling, terrifying and effective as The Exorcist, compared to some of the more recent movies of this sub-genre, The Possession is not that weak at all.

It’s about a little girl whose father buys her an antique box, covered with Hebrew letters, at a yard sale, unaware of the fact that inside the box lives a malicious spirit that possesses children. After the girl’s father finds out about the “dybbuk,” he tries everything to find a way to end the terrible curse upon his child.

Script-wise, The Possession barely stands out form all the other exorcism flicks, as it has far too many familiar elements and tired plot formulas, but it manages to make up for that with an engrossing narrative, some fine performances, and an effectively bleak atmosphere that sets the gloomy tone of the movie from the very beginning, namely the shocking opening scene.

The fact that the film is based on a true story makes it fairly disturbing, especially if you take it seriously. However, some gruesomely creepy images and a couple of tense and nail-bitingly suspenseful moments aside, The Possession barely has the “scare factor.” On a positive note, almost nothing about it feels overdone or laughably unrealistic as far as exorcism movies go.

Visually and technically, The Possession is undoubtedly a well-made movie. Even though it’s set in present day, interestingly enough, it has that specific, 70’s-inspired, ominous feel about it. From the washed-out color palette to the bleak, intentionally simplistic cinematography, eerie sound effects and oddly scratchy music score, everything about The Possession screams “old school” Ole Bornedal’s direction is simple in style, yet sophisticated execution-wise, and aesthetically effective in terms of visual impact on the viewer and establishing the mood of the film. While the use of CGI is a bit too obvious at times, overall the special effects are convincingly-executed, way above average, and everything but cheesy.

The acting is pretty much faultless most of the time. No one would be more appropriate for the role of the struggling dad giving his all to save his little daughter than the wonderful Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He shows us yet another different side from him as an actor, delivering one of the better performances of his career. That being said, the true star of the film remains the promising young actress Natasha Calis as Em. Yes, her performance isn’t as shockingly disturbing and flawless as Linda Blair in The Exorcist, but she manages to alternate between innocence and evilness so effortlessly, it’s admirable. The supporting cast does a fine job as well, with Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport and Matisyahu deserving a special mention.

Bottom line: Well-crafted, solidly-acted, visually-atmospheric and often sinister, if far from frightening, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Ole Bornedal’s exorcism flick, The Possession, but there’s nothing special or groundbreaking about it either.


A movie reviewer since 2004, George Beremov has a soft spot for horror, fantasy and martial arts films in particular, but as a true cinema connoisseur, he adores all the other genres as well. Eight years ago, he started writing reviews on a movie journal over at Rotten Tomatoes, but then left it behind, in order to run his own blog –CineMarvellous! – which became very successful since its debut back in mid-2009. You can follow George on Twitter @CineMarvellous and/or become a member of his blog (  He is a regular contributor to White Cat.


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6 Responses to Movie Review of “The Possession”

  1. I found some elements of the trailers really intriguing, like the fingers in the back of the throat. I will probably see it eventually. Looked like it might have some “ring” influence as well.

  2. Charles, there really are some very interesting elements, that make the movie worth-seeing. Don’t expect another “Ring” though. It’s hardly influenced by it.

  3. Riley says:

    It’s creepy to know that The Possession is based on a true story. What’s scarier is the news that the storage area where the movie props were being held was found burning after they filmed. I watched it with a few of my DISH coworkers, and we had a few jumpy moments. I plan on seeing it again, so I’ve added it to my Blockbuster @Home queue so I won’t have to worry about paying for another movie ticket or buying the movie outright. I’ll have some time to look for other scary movies too! One thing is for sure; I will think twice about visiting a yard sale.

  4. Riley, I didn’t know that fact, but it’s creepy, indeed. I didn’t like it that much to give it a second shot, but I thought it was worth checking out on the big screen.

    As for the yard sale – after seeing that movie, I would never visit one, let alone buy something from it. :)

  5. Melissa Bradley says:

    Great review! I am looking forward to seeing this one because there have been such a spate of truly abysmal possession flicks that people have glommed onto and called brilliant. They obviously don’t know what a great possession film entails. This may not be Exorcist good, but it sounds like it’s far above the dreck that’s been out lately.

  6. Mel, thanks a bunch. I appreciate it. :)
    You should definitely check this one out. You will be pleasantly surprised by how decent it is, compared to other movies of this sub-genre. The direction is spot-on, and the entire cast delivers great performances.