“The Possession” isn’t a remake or reboot. It just unabashedly cherry picks from a half dozen or more previous horror films.
You don’t have to squint to see elements from “The Ring,” “The Exorcist” and even “The Haunting in Connecticut” trot across the screen. Meanwhile, underrated leading man Jeffrey Dean Morgan does all he can to pretend we haven’t seen it all before.
In one way we haven’t. “The Possession” introduces Judaism into the “exorcism” genre in a new and novel way, but by the time we see a chanting Jew fighting for one very lost soul it’s a tad too late.
Morgan plays Clyde, a divorced dad who can’t help giving his two teen daughters pizza and other goodies during their weekends together. He’s not a bad fellow, he just drifted apart from his ex (Kyra Sedgwick), who now has a new hunk (“Melrose Place’s” Grant Show) to call her own.
When Clyde’s daughter Em (Natasha Calis) finds an antique wooden box at a yard sale, he doesn’t think twice about buying it for her.
The box is clearly haunted, as we note from a silly but effective opening sequence. Suddenly, young Em is distant from her family, and Clyde’s bathroom has a heckuva lot more moths than any room in the house should have.
“The Possession” is purportedly based on a true story, but that knowledge doesn’t impact the experience in any discernible way. The film simply trots out the standard horror movie tropes – objects that move in the night, bathroom mirrors which hold more than toothpaste, possessed people who speak in husky voices – and arranges them for maximum shock value.
Let’s use the term “maximum” loosely. “The Possession” simply isn’t scary.
Morgan excels as both a concerned dad and a person struggling to hold an already fractured family together. Sedgwick is stuck with the bullying ex-wife role, the second most demeaning part in the production. First place goes to Show, natch, as the idyllic new dude in her life who will get his comeuppance for daring to date a divorced woman.
The evil box’s Hebrew inscriptions lead Clyde to a young Hasidic Jew (apper Matisyahu showing real screen presence) as the only person who can make Em’s new, lower register voice and suddenly oily hair go away.
There’s nothing unprofessional going on in “The Possession,” and that makes it better than most mainstream horror releases. Solid cinematography, sturdy acting and a script lacking embarrassingly dumb moments is a pretty low bar for the genre, but it exists all the same.
To be fair, “The Possession” does embrace its inner gonzo spirit in its waning moments, but horror formula eventually wins the day as the ending sadly suggest a sequel.
Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies