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Movie review: 'The Possession' scares are better than most

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick are a divorced couple whose daughter is taken over by a dybbuk. Sam Raimi produces.

August 30, 2012|By Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
  • Matisyahu, left, Natasha Calis, center, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick star in "The Possession."
Matisyahu, left, Natasha Calis, center, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick… (Diyah Per / Lionsgate )

Moving into a creepy unfinished subdivision, then bringing home a spooky religious relic seem like not the smartest decisions, but no one ever makes horror movies about the best way to raise your credit score or get along with the new boss at work.

A better-than-most fright-time tale, the new supernatural thriller "The Possession" begins with the recently divorced Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) trying to get along to lessen the strain on their two daughters.

Their youngest, Em (Natasha Calis), buys an odd wooden box at a yard sale and soon begins acting strangely because, naturally, she has been overtaken by an apparition of Jewish legend known as a dybbuk.

Directed by Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal (1997's "Nightwatch") and produced by Sam Raimi, "The Possession" offers a few small-scale scares, but it's not quite clear if the Brenek family is Jewish, so the idea of belief and true faith is never part of the equation. The dybbuk just is.

(The idea of a dybbuk was used to a more comedic and philosophical effect in the 2009 Coen brothers' movie "A Serious Man.")

The film is the sort of classically minded horror tale that Raimi in particular seems to favor. Bornedal's Danish films are likewise moody chamber pieces and here he creates a sustained sense of mounting dread, though the movie is kind of stolen by the Hasidic rapper Matisyahu as the hip son of a rabbi who helps perform an exorcism to put that dybbuk back in his box.

Matisyahu seems to be performing at a different temperature than everyone else in the cast, keeping it cool and laid-back while the other actors huff and puff their way through.

mark.olsen@latimes.com

'The Possession'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: In general release


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