He’s the son of a rabbi in Borough Park who is trying to save a girl named Em by removing a dybbuk, or evil spirit that has possessed her. His father insists it is too dangerous, saying: “This must be left to the will of God.” But Tzadok goes rogue and decides to help no matter the risk.
Things start to go wrong for Em after she buys a box at a yard sale. It has Hebrew words on it and she thinks it looks cool. But soon, she begins to hear voices. Naturally, she stabs her father in the hand with a fork for no reason. He gets upset for about two seconds and that’s it. Then, there are strange moths all around and Em begins to eat like a savage and her face contorts. Strange things appear in her throat.
Em’s divorced parents, Clyde and Stephanie, (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick) try to figure out what’s ailing their daughter. There are a few bits of humor here, notably with what happens to the mother’s new boyfriend, dutifully played by Grant Show. You may remember him as Jake in the Fox show “Melrose Place.” Let’s just say this is a role he has difficulty sinking his teeth into.
Matisyahu gives the film some much needed life (no pun intended) and Natasha Calis is considerably creepy and fun to watch as the afflicted and possessed girl. Dean Morgan does a decent job as the father who loves his family but is very busy. You feel for him, though you’ll wonder if he’s being offered the job as the head basketball coach at North Carolina or not and how exactly this is possible. One drill he does with his team is called “Invisi-ball” where they run plays without the real ball.
That’s a nice bit of foreshadowing. Unfortunately, the problems with this film are easy to see. The main problem is that the lack of contrast creates a lack of interest. There needs to be some light at the beginning of the movie to set up the darkness. There’s one moment where the father and his daughter laugh about a payoff of $35 so that Em doesn’t tell her mother that her father gave her pizza. But that’s hardly enough. And the film is visually dark, pretty much the whole time. There’s some contrast with Matisyahu, who we first see chilled out with his headphones by the subway steps and he eventually is shuckling and praying and yelling. But a scene of him dancing and being whimsical would have set things up better. And does he always go against his father or is this the first time? It doesn’t help that he’s given the line: “I hate hospitals. People die here.”
There’s also little resolution on the origin and significance of who the dybbuk is and as such, the film’s ending is less meaningful. To be sure, there are a few scary moments in “The Posession” and there are a number of reasons to go see it. In the climactic scene where Matisyahu’s character is trying to rid Em of the demon, there’s great interplay between the two. There is something magical (he still has his beard here) about the scene. Even though the film is a bit formulaic, there are a couple of things you won’t see coming.
Produced by Sam Raimi of Spider-Man fame, the film movie will not scare the pants off you. It probably won’t give you nightmares although you shouldn’t eat during the film or go see right before you have to take an MRI. The film is PG-13 and is ok for teens since there’s no nudity and there’s not too much gore. There are some interesting undertones of the impact of divorce and the difficulty a dad goes through when he’s losing his family. It’s also likely to be the only film where a child shouts “Shut Up!” while someone is reciting the “sh’ma.”And the casting of Matisyahu is a great touch. Surely, someone who put a positive spirit in so many people should be the choice to try to take a negative spirit out of one person.
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Matisyahu
Directed by Ole Bornedal
Running Time: 1 hr, 32 minutes