Possession (2012): Better the Dybbuk You Know…


Directed by Danish director Ole Bornedal (who directed and wrote both the original Danish film Nightwatch and the Ewan McGregor remake) Possession is based on “true events” and deals with a box used to store Jewish spirits; a Dybbuk box. Co-written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (Boogeyman) based on an article by Leslie Gornstein entitled Jinx in a Box.


Jeffrey Dean Morgan Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Kyra Sedgwick Kyra Sedgwick
Natasha Calis Natasha Calis
Madison Davenport Madison Davenport
Matisyahu Matisyahu
Grant Show Grant Show

*Courtesy of IMDb*

Possession is the story of a family going through the stresses of divorce and re-settlement. Clyde (Morgan) is a high school basket ball coach who has shared custody of his and ex-wife Stephanie’s (Sedgwick) two daugters Em (Calis) and Hanna (Davenport). He buys a house on the outskirts of town in a new development.

This part of the film felt a little like the classic film Poltergeist in its tract house setting and it also felt very isolated when you realise that Clyde and his daughters are one of the few people actually occupying a house in the development.

Younger daughter Em loves the rural setting and Hanna is horrified. After staying the weekend, Clyde is driving them back to Stephanie and her new partner dentist Brett (Show) when the girls spy a yard sale. Hanna tells her father to stop as he needs dishes. While he talks on his cell (mobile) phone about a new job coaching in a university, Hanna gets dishes and Em finds a curiously carved box with straps around it. She asks Clyde to buy it and he does.

In the house that is hosting the yard sale, a woman that we’ve met earlier in the film is wrapped in bandages after her attempt to destroy the box that Em is holding in her hands. She sees Em with the box and starts soundlessly screaming and beating the window. A nurse closes the curtains, but not before Em is badly frightened by the display.

Em is fascinated by the box and it whispers to her. She accidentally discovers how to open it and she finds some strange things inside it. In metal “jars” she finds a carved animal, a death moth, a ring and a few other odd curios. She slips the ring on her finger and begins to act strangely.

The film descends into a mix of suspense and some pretty scary scenes based around the personality change of Em. When things start to crank up and Clyde tries to get rid of the strange box, Em goes crazy and after acting like Clyde has struck her she runs out of the house to the dumpster where he threw the box away. Once there the box opens and things go from bad to worse in a moment.


Clyde takes the box to a professor of the Occult and finds out that it is a Dybbuk box and it has a pretty scary past. He then goes to the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn to get help. After one of the Jewish Elders tells Clyde that whatever happens is in the hands of God, a younger man Tzadok (Matisyahu) offers to help.

This film obviously owes a lot to William Peter Blatty‘s The Exorcist. But to give  Bornedal credit he pulls out all the stops to keep the film from becoming a farcical parody of the  original and eschews the use of spinning heads and spewing vomit. He relies on sound and shadows to increase the tension and build up the suspense.

Morgan does a great job as Clyde the father who is trying very hard to hold his dwindling family together. I have not seen him in many films, the last one was The Watchmen. But by the end of the film, I decided that he should be in a lot more. Sedgewick as the highly strung mother who has decided that she wants to be with the anally retentive dentist is just as impressive.

The real star of the film was Calis as Em. She was brilliant as the Jewish version of Regan aka Linda Blair. She managed to look vulnerable and downright scary; sometimes in the same scene. The other young actress who played her sister, looked too much like a young Lindsey Lohan for me to warm to her too much, but young Davenport as Hanna held her own against the other actors in the cast.

A pretty decent scary film that did not rely on gore or fantastical special effects to sell the story. The use of sound and repetitive dialogue and distorting Em’s voice all worked well in the film. The director also relied on a great score to move things along and the use of shadow also worked very well in the film.

I’d give this film a much higher rating than either IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes. At least a 4 stars out of 5 film that delivers it’s scares matter-of-factly and with a certain panache that left me admiring the story and it’s “open” ending.

The box that starts all the trouble.
The box that starts all the trouble.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

14 thoughts on “Possession (2012): Better the Dybbuk You Know…”

  1. This was another one that borrowed from other movies; my friend and I started cracking up during the classroom scene when the “666” was chalked on the board! Oh how original! Who thought of THAT? lol. And the whole third act was recycled from other films, just as Mama was. I like the horror films that have a creative and original ending – like “Orphan”. That made me sick to my stomach! lol.


      1. You probably haven’t seen as many as I have, so you don’t notice how much they borrow. Have you seen “Orphan”?


      2. I’ve been watching horror films since I was 10 years old, sneaking down to watch Hammer horror on the telly when my parents were asleep. If you do the math that’s about 44 years worth of horror films! LOL Yes, I adored Orphan as I didn’t see the twist coming, I kept thinking that the girl was some sort of demon or something. lol Like I said, I’m just more forgiving as a lot of film-makers ‘borrow” liberally from other films, what will kill a film for me is bad acting, poor casting choices or idiots with cameras. 🙂


      3. You really need to watch “The Hidden Face”. It’s a spanish thriller/mystery with elements of horror. But be sure not to watch the trailer b/c it gives the twist away. But trust me, you need to see this movie! I was floored by the twist and the twist is revealed in the middle so you don’t even have to wait until the finale. 🙂


      4. I think you are the second person whose recommended this film to me…or it was you both times! LOL I’ve got it on my list of “must-see’s” Cheers mate! 😀


      5. Yeah, I did recommend it before, but I figured you’ve got a hundred movies on your list and it’s at the bottom, and I’m trying to get you to bump it to the top. lol. I want someone on this blog community to watch and do a review! 🙂


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