The Possession parents guide

The Possession Parent Review

Perhaps suitable for older teens that enjoy this genre, "The Possession" is at least a reasonably well-crafted boo-pic.

Overall C+

Be careful what you buy at yard sales! After his daughter (Natasha Calis) purchases an antique box, the girl unwittingly unleashes a nasty spirit. Desperate to offer protection, her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) seeks help from his ex-wife (Kyra Sedgwick).

Violence C
Sexual Content B+
Profanity B-
Substance Use B-

The Possession is rated PG-13 PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences. (Appealed and reedited from an R rating.)

Movie Review

Moments after the lights dim and the screen illuminates, we see the oft-abused phrase “BASED ON A TRUE STORY” written big and wide. My skeptical senses suddenly awaken. The tale unspools, beginning with what I call the “seed” scene. An unknown elderly woman carefully approaches a wooden box on her mantle. She reaches out to touch it (always a bad idea when scary music is playing) and is immediately sent into twisted contortions with blood oozing from her face.

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Cut to a not-so-happy family—a divorced couple, Clyde and Stephanie (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick), their two daughters Em and Hannah (Natasha Calis, Madison Davenport) and the recently single mom’s new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde is picking up the girls for the weekend and after leaving his ex-wife’s home heads for the suburbs to show the kids his new digs. On the way they see a yard sale and decide to take a look. Em is immediately drawn to an odd wooden box with Hebrew inscriptions—the very same box that caused the elderly woman to break into hyper-yoga-itis. Of course Dad buys the oddity and they resume their merry journey.

Not surprisingly, strange things begin to happen. First Em’s personality goes from cute to dark, and black eye shadow becomes her makeup of choice. Then strange insects infiltrate the house. Dad finally detects the box may be a problem in Em’s life, so he takes it away. That doesn’t go so well and now even he is convinced the strange artifact contains something unworldly. Of course his former wife and her dentist friend think he’s an unfit father—that is until Brett discovers a whole new meaning for the term advanced gingivitis.

Although this film was edited from a previous “restricted” MPAA rating, it is surprisingly light in typical content issues. A half-dozen profanities include a scatological slang and a term of Christian deity. There is also a moment of sexual innuendo. Not surprisingly violence is the greatest concern with a few characters being deformed and contorted by an evil spirit, bodies slammed against walls and furniture, and a person eventually tossed to her death from a second-story window. Some of these depictions include blood effects.

As for the “truth” of this film, an antique Jewish wine cabinet that sold on eBay in 2004 is behind the assertion. According to the still active listing, the box is said to be haunted by a “dibbuk”. (This is a Hebrew term describing a “dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host”—quoting from the movie’s official website.) The eBay account details the misfortunes that came to its owner after he purchased the wooden artifact at an estate sale. Since then other “possessors” have claimed similar bad outcomes.

Obviously for parents who don’t appreciate dabbling in such areas, this will be a movie to avoid. However it holds surprisingly solid performances, especially from it’s young cast members, an interesting musical score (that uses moments of silence to great benefit) and avoids employing continual violence and gore as a cheap scare tactic. Perhaps suitable for older teens that enjoy this genre, The Possession is at least a reasonably well-crafted boo-pic.

Directed by Ole Bornedal. Starring Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick. Running time: 91 minutes. Theatrical release August 31, 2012. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Possession here.

The Possession Parents Guide

How are music and sound used to enhance the “scare” effect? Are the sound techniques in this movie different from most other horror films? What aspects of this move are stereotypical for this genre?

A man by the name of Kevin Mannis was the original purchaser of what has become known as The Dibbuk Box. You can read his story here: