At the Movies
The Possession starts out with a tough-but-real scenario. Recently-divorced parents played by Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy) try their best to transition their two daughters into a new reality.
Dad buys his own place. Mom gets a mildly controlling dentist boyfriend. Kids get weekend visits.
And when daughter Emily picks up an antique wooden box at a neighborhood estate sale — getting with it a dark spirit — things get, well, worse.
The movie's most unsettling moment pops up during the opening credits with the classic line "based on true story."
Produced by cult horror/comedy master Sam Raimi, the film follows Emily (or Em) as an ancient Jewish demon takes possession of her soul, giving the young girl bizarre supernatural strength, uncontrolled fits of rage and an the occasional Exorcist-style devil voice.
Assisted by his ex-wife and a hip Jewish scholar named Tzadok (played by Hasidic rap artist Matisyahu), Em's father attempts to cast the parasitic beast out of his daughter and back into its little wooden home.
That appears to be a winning formula. The Possession took the No. 1 spot at the box office Friday, taking in $6.1 million on the first day of the important Labor Day Weekend.
The Back Story
While Danish director Ole Bornedal makes the demonic transformation legitimately scary, the movie's most unsettling moment pops up during the opening credits with the classic line "based on true story."
The script is a reworking of the 2004 Los Angeles Times article "Jinx in a Box" about a university museum curator who purchased an eBay item described as a "haunted Jewish wine cabinet box" that contained objects like locks of hair, a dried flower, two wheat pennies and a candlestick as well as a "dibbuk," a type of spirit known in Yiddish folklore.
Researching the mysterious box, the curator discovered the object's two previous owners experienced phenomena ranging from odd smells and dark shadows to more curse-like forces that brought about strokes and hair loss.
Luckily, with a steady dose of some silly action sequences, the cinematic retelling of the dibbuk box story feels less and less frightening as the movie progresses. Well, at least until the final scene . . .