Exorcism movies long ago ceased being a novelty, and are now practically their own sub-genre of horror. This might explain why it's so difficult to make a good one, since what was once new is now inevitably cliché. And the clichés of this particular genre (little girl or virginal young woman being possessed by evil) seem very hard to change, and/or transcend, as well as avoid inevitable comparisons to “The Exorcist.” This seems to be the main thing holding “The Possession” back; it's not a bad movie, it's just another horror film that doesn't really have anything new to offer. That said, that doesn't mean you won't have a good time watching it.
“The Possession” opens with a woman attempting to destroy a creepy box in her home and not only failing miserably, but being brutally thrown around her living room for her trouble by an invisible force. Now that our seemingly random intro is out of the way, we cut to our main characters, divorced couple Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and their two daughters, teenage Hannah (Madison Davenport) and 10-year-old Em (Natasha Calis).
Clyde has moved out of the home and shares custody of his daughters with his ex-wife, who now has a new boyfriend and seems to be moving on fine without him, while he is contemplating moving across the country for his dream job This affects the kids in various negative, but still normal ways until Em stumbles on a certain mysterious box at a yard sale.
Em becomes more and more obsessed with the box, and starts talking to it and carting it around with her everywhere. This sparks some odd, unsettling events, with Em's behavior gradually becoming more violent and sinister, and separating her from the box soon becomes akin to a drug addict going cold turkey.
To his credit, Clyde mostly reacts like a normal parent would: he actually talks to his daughter about why she spends so much time with the box and tries to get rid of it. But he also doesn't suspect possession too quickly. It's only after he takes the box to a professor and discovers that according to Jewish mythology, the box is said to contain a dybbuk, or malicious spirit, that he seeks help from some Hasidic Jews. They are reluctant, but luckily Tzadok, played by music artist Matisyahu, is willing to help.
The movie's main strengths are depicting a normal family in crisis and how they might actually react to a supernatural encounter. Neither parent or secular society is the villain; the only villain is the demon itself. And unlike other exorcism movies, “The Possession” does a credible job in showing how Em is slowly drawn to the malevolence that lives in the box, as well as her terror of what she is becoming.
If only the scares were done as skillfully. But the climactic exorcism scene doesn't pack much of a punch and almost refuses to make good use of the macabre setting. Of course, that doesn't stop the filmmakers from leaving the end open to a possible sequel. I suppose nowadays there's always the chance they'll get it right next time.