There are two horror movies with titles that start with “the” and follow with a ghosty word: The Apparition and The Possession. I’ve seen both in the last week, and considering that I almost bought (another) ticket to The Apparition when I went to see The Possession because it’s easy to mix up their generic titles, I figured I should review both just in case you also end up staring at the screen wondering which was the “good” one.
A thought experiment goes wrong, bringing a malevolent being into our dimension, where it haunts a young couple in their new house.
A divorced dad turns to the Hasidic community for help when his daughter displays unnatural behavior after buying a wooden box from a yard sale.
This review will be the story of two movies: a failure and a success. One that had an innovative idea that went nowhere (The Apparition) and another that followed a well worn pattern but did it well (The Possession).
We’ll start with the failure, because those are usually more interesting. The posters and trailers for The Apparition used the tagline “you believe, you die,” leading us to believe that was going to be the central idea of the film. That the characters would have to believe in the supernatural force in order for it to hunt them. Alas, this is only true for the first few minutes, when Patrick (Tom Felton) and his university group do a belief experiment and accidentally get their pal sucked into a wall.
Hey guys? Do you think maybe we should have seatbelts?
After that we jump to a boringly normal couple, Kelly (Ashley Green) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) who move into a brand new house in a deserted post-mortgage crisis community. They find some weird rot, blame it on shoddy contractors, and wander around in their underpants (well, Kelly does) to investigate strange noises. In other words, they star in a typical haunted house movie. Which will have you asking: wtf does this have to do with anything?
Stand back. My fallic symbol will defend it’s dominion over your underpants.
Well, it turns out that Ben had been the camera man for the original experiment (or something) so he’s haunted, not the house. They never mention the belief thing, not even once, which is a good thing because it makes no sense anyway: the apparition was haunting Kelly (not Ben) for ages before it occurred to her that it might be something supernatural (she’s kind of not smart that way).
Hey Dipsh**, you’re not trapped. Those nails are all in the frame.
The nonsense doesn’t stop there, either, because soon enough Patrick shows up suggesting that they perform an even more powerful version of their original belief-summoning ritual to make it go away and you wonder: “what are these people using for brains?” I think you can guess how it turns out.
I’m shocked and appalled that our brilliant plan backfired!
By contrast, The Possession makes no claim to originality. It even touts the fact that it’s (supposedly) based on a true story (yeah right, like anyone believes that). Everyone knows that it’s just The Exorcist except Jewish, but instead of slapping together some piece of crap just to have something that will collect a little ticket money, they actually put real effort into the movie.
“Uh, Em, wtf is all this creepy sh** in this box?” he asks,
like a person with more than a single functioning brain cell.
Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is newly divorced from his wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and both of them do a good job at treating each other with a combination of resentment and longing that makes it feel not far fetched when their daughter’s possession brings them back together.
Okay honey, you hold her down, I’ll shout at her in Hebrew.
Their daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis) look a little too much alike, but as soon as Em picks up a Dibbuk box – a weird wooden block with no seams and Hebrew lettering on it – at a yard sale, you can tell them apart more easily. Em is the one with the blank look, predilection for locusts, and the fingers crawling up her throat. This is what you expect from a little girl who gravitates toward the creepiest thing at the yard sale.
Oooh! Maybe there’s something dead inside!
The Possession is a movie that understands subtlety and pacing. It knows that once you show a thing, people stop being scared of it. There is one moment and one moment only when we see the thing plaguing Em, and it’s right at the end. The Possession builds tension by filling half of the movie with tantalizing glimpses and scary things that could really be something non-paranormal.
If you squint, you can pretend these are mosquitoes.
It follows the same tired format of possession movies – little girl touches something she shouldn’t, starts acting weird, parents try to explain it away, sh** gets real, religious assistance is called for, an exorcism takes place. Swap the mom for a dad, the idol for a box, and the priests for a rabbi, and it’s essentially the same movie as The Exorcist.
The power of Christ compels you! (except in Hebrew, and without the Christ part)
But (and I know I’m going to take some flak for this) I liked The Possession better than The Exorcist. Things actually happen in The Possession whereas I found The Exorcist to be kind of boring. So I recommend you see this movie rather than renting The Exorcist. And just skip The Apparition altogether. It’s not very good.