I like a good possession flick as much as the next guy — maybe more so. Hell, The Exorcist and it’s sequels (well, maybe not Exorcist II or Dominion so much — although both had some merits) are amongst my favorite flicks, and in my capacity for horror enjoyment I can actually get behind The Last Exorcism I & II, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Possession, The Possession of Michael King, Inner Demons, and The Atticus Institute — all of these, for better or worse, I can say that I enjoyed. But do you notice a pattern here? Of these that I’ve mentioned, most are from within the last ten years, give or take a year. Toss in a few more of varying levels of disappointment like The Devil Inside, Vatican Exorcisms, and Deliver Us From Evil, and the trend is quite obvious: there’s a dearth of “possession” films hitting the market, and the idea, like zombies, is getting a little tired with no one really bringing a lot of new ideas to the table. Sometimes there’s a new wrinkle, a subtle twist to the formula that makes a flick stand out, but sadly, more often that not such films are a rehash of the same old ideas with some sparkly (or gooey) eye candy added in the hopes of making a green-pea splash of their own on the subgenre.
Scott B. Hansen and crew have set out to make their own splash with their new feature, The Possession Experiment. With my mind open but cautious, I sat down to check out this effort.
Brandon seems to be a really dedicated student in his college classes — he’s attentive, and very interested in his course of study, which seems centered around religious rituals and mythology.
Drawing the attention of his professor, he’s given information to do an investigative study on an actual exorcism that took place fairly close to the community he lives and attends school in. With his study partner (and womanizing stoner) Clay in tow, he checks out the dilapidated, abandoned house where the deed went down, and finds an old Ouija board and some odd occurrences that pique his curiosity further. Taking his studies a step beyond his project parameters, he starts a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to actually attempt to become possessed, using the premise of streaming it live to those who contribute. Though his professor warns him against it, he makes enough money to hire both a medium and lovely medical student Leda to assist him in his endeavor and, cameras rolling, returns to the old house to attempt to invite the demons within to take his body.
Despite some ominous happenings during their “séance”, Brandon is disappointed that nothing seems to have changed…at first, anyways…
It sounds like a pretty good premise, and I held out high hopes — but alas, I was let down. Though the camera work and set ups are good, they borrow heavily from what you’ve seen before. The opening scene, familiar as it is, sets up what I originally thought would be a new, derivative take on the whole “possession” idea, and instead became a bundle of contrivances, one of which is way too convenient and had me actually asking out loud “C’mon, seriously?” I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a lot worse flicks, but even beyond that moment the film is packed with cliché — of course, anytime you explore a subgenre, you run that risk — but just using one example, having a Ouija board as a lynchpin just seems lazy in this current film environment of Ouija, The Ouija Experiment I & II, Ouija: Origin of Evil — all the way back to The Exorcist itself, and that’s just naming a few. Then, there’s this weird Nightmare On Elm Street -esque sequence that seems to come out of left field — is this demonic possession, or a slasher flick? Add to that, some of the decisions made by our lead character (which, for his part, Chris Minor plays with all the verisimilitude he can, under the circumstances) are levitating somewhere above the apex of stupidity, with very little reasoning or exploration as to why the hell he makes them — to say nothing of how his friends react to said idea. Jake Brinn, in the character of Clay, does at least provide a voice (our voice, methinks), being very vocal about his opposition to the idea, and about the lack of sanity that Brandon shows. Nicky Jasper as Leda does her best to provide some emotional bottom to the whole story, but is hampered by under utilization. Genre favorite Bill Moseley is barely in the film, and seems to feel out-of-place when he is. The FX does have some bright spots (there’s a pretty interesting method of suicide showcased in deliciously gory detail), but for me, it just wasn’t enough to raise my enjoyment enough to overlook the weird and disjointed plot.
As always, I hate writing a negative review — I know that every film is somebody’s baby — but I have to be honest as I see it. That said, you might not see it the same way I did, so if possession flicks are your thing, it might be worth exploring for you; it’s not a horrible film, having what came out of the box as a good concept, but, in my opinion, falling flat in the execution.
It did have some good points that kept it from being a complete disaster, but as a whole, it just didn’t do it for me.
My two cents.
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