Movie Number– 106
Title– Possession (2009)
Running Time– 86 minutes
Director– Simon Sandquist, Joel Bergvall
Writer– Michael Petroni, Won-mi Byun (Screenplay Jungdok), Min-ho Song (Screenplay Jungdok)
Starring– Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lee Pace, Michael Landes
There’s no denying my love for remakes of Asian horror/thriller films. Generally, I enjoy the original version better, but I still like watching the remakes. In the rare case of Possession, I have not seen the 2002 original entitled Jungdok (or Addiction). The movie’s description and cover had me feeling that this was going to be similar to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s other remake roles of Karen in The Grudge and The Grudge 2, which I thought would make for a fun, scare-filled night for my girlfriend and me. Turns out, however, that Possession throws out the scares of movies like The Grudge and adds in more questions, giving the viewer a psychological thriller that may or may not be supernatural.
In my last review I praised After.Life with a five-star rating, calling it one of the “must-see DVD releases of 2010” because of the stellar acting, smart script and its ability to keep me guessing until the end of the movie. There are a lot of similarities between these films, but Possession isn’t quite as smart, well-written, thought provoking, or addictive as After.Life was, leaving it somewhere in the middle of the rating scale.
In Possession, Ray (Michael Landes) lets his younger brother Roman (Lee Pace) live with he and his wife, Jess (Sarah Michelle Gellar), after Roman is released from prison for assault. Jess is scared by her now-live-in brother-in-law and tells Ray that he needs to get him out of their house. Roman overhears this (like he does most things that go on in the house) and decides, the next morning, to pack up his things and leave. Jess calls Ray to let him know what is going on, and Ray decides to head back to the house immediately. Roman drives through the streets of San Francisco like a complete idiot, swerving in and out of lanes and traffic. Once he reaches the Golden Gate Bridge, disaster strikes, and both Ray and Roman end up in comas in the hospital after a devastating head-on collision. These may seem like spoilers, but the real point of the story is what happens next: Roman wakes up from the coma convinced that he is Jess’ husband. Roman tells Jess things that only her husband would know, which leads Jess to think that the supernatural might be at play.
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Jess) stands out as the star of the movie, playing another tension-filled role with believability. Although Possession is not Gellar’s crowning achievement, there was little to complain about with her acting. Her co-star, Lee Pace (Roman), does a much better job as a hopeless romantic in the final three-fourths of the film than he did as the badass bald guy in the start of the film, and Pace delivers another good performance (much like his Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls runs). The supporting lead, Michael Landes (Ray), has the worst written character in the movie, and if only for the script, I would not have believed he was real for a moment. Fortunately, Landes’ acting chops were able to overcome the bad writing for the most part, and he made his character, at the very least, sympathetic. There were three solid performances by the main characters, but not one was at the top of their game. I still think there is something to be said for this group of actors because none of the characters were really written too well, and overcoming a bad script is a tough thing to do (nearly impossible in some instances).
Whenever I am watching a movie, if I start thinking about the director at any point, that means that either something terrible has gone wrong with the film and I am completely disconnected from what is going on, or that director has done something excellent, be it a camera angle, casting choice, whatever. During Possession, the director never entered my mind. I thought this was an enjoyable movie, but there was nothing that stood out to me. Ever. If a director is content with making a mediocre-good movie, then so be it. Unfortunately, it’s the movies that are made with greatness in mind that stick with viewer’s years down the road. Possession is not that film, and I challenge anyone to re-tell the story with some details a year after watching it. It probably won’t happen. Possession is a forgettable movie, and that may push some potential audience members away immediately.
Without seeing the original movie that Possession is based on, it is hard to know where to place blame in terms of the script. Was this one of those scene-by-scene remakes like Quarantine was to [REC], or something more of a “reimagining” like the 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street? Whatever the case may be, Michael Petroni could have written better, smarter characters. I hate feeling like characters are being trivialized in order for the movie to work; if the movie doesn’t work with good characters, edit more. Possession is not bad by any stretch, but it never stands out, and will be forgotten a month after watching it. If this still sounds interesting to anyone, give it a go. If not, I don’t blame you.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.