A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Possession is a demon-possession horror movie that's supposedly "based on a true story." There's plenty of scary stuff and creepy special effects -- screaming, eyes rolling back in heads, etc. -- though relatively little gore. Two minor characters are beaten up by invisible forces, but a lot of the more brutal stuff happens off screen. A few trickles of blood are seen coming from eyes and mouths. Language is very infrequent and includes one use of "s--t." Sex isn't an issue, but the movie deals extensively with a divorced couple, one of whom is in a new relationship. An adult character drinks a beer in one scene.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Newly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) picks up his daughters -- the younger Em (Natasha Calis) and the older Hannah (Madison Davenport) -- to spend the weekend in his new house. They stop at a garage sale, and Em asks to buy a mysterious box. She finds a secret switch that opens it and discovers some odd things inside: a tooth, a dead moth, etc. Soon she starts acting strangely. As Em's behavior gets worse, it seems as though she's been taken over by something. The problem drives a deeper rift between Clyde and his ex-wife (Kyra Sedgwick), but Clyde isn't easily deterred: He'll do anything to help his daughter. He tracks down a rabbi, whose son (Matisyahu) volunteers to perform an exorcism. But is it too late to save Em?
Is it any good?
By now the demon possession movie is fairly familiar, and there aren't many variations on it, but THE POSSESSION is surprisingly above average for the genre. It's certainly much better than entries like The Devil Inside and The Rite. The Possession succeeds, firstly, with its strong characters; a good deal of time is spent establishing the emotional awkwardness and the reality of a divorce and how it affects the parents, the children, and even the mother's new boyfriend.
The movie also has a strong sense of style. Danish director Ole Bornedal, who previously directed a horror classic called Nightwatch (as well as its poorer American remake), uses sound to brilliant effect and also clamps down on gore, focusing instead on scary stuff. When the movie ramps up to its tense climax, the relationships between the characters count for as much, if not more, than the horrific elements. If the movie has a drawback, it's that it's not quite scary enough to satisfy hardcore horror hounds. But at least it's good.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Possession's violence. How much blood/gore is shown compared to other horror movies? Does that make the movie feel more or less intense?
How does the movie handle/depict divorce? Does it seem realistic? How well or how badly is the family dealing with the situation?
Does the movie seem like a true story? What seems true, and what doesn't? How could you find out more about what really happened?
- In theaters: August 31, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: January 15, 2013
- Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis
- Director: Ole Bornedal
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences
- Last updated: May 29, 2021
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