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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Possession

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Matisyahu, Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Kyra Sedgwick star in "The Possession."
Catholic exorcists get some time off with "The Possession" (Lionsgate). Since this mostly gore-free chiller's premise rests on Jewish tales of demonic indwelling by beings called dybbuks, it's a Hasidic student, rather than a priest, who eventually gets summoned to the rescue. And file this one under "Only in America": said scholar—Tzadok by name—is played by Hasidic rapper and reggae singer Matisyahu.

At the outset, recently divorced dad Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hardly knows what he's letting himself in for when he and his two daughters, Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis), stop by a weekend yard sale. There, Em's fancy is taken by a seemingly innocuous wooden box and Clyde casually agrees to buy it for her.

Em's interest soon turns to life-blighting obsession as the dybbuk that was supposed to be trapped in the container forever emerges and instead takes up residence inside her. Logically enough, Clyde and his ex, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), assume Em's deteriorating demeanor is an aftereffect of their split. But as eerie and inexplicable events continue to plague the family, Clyde at least realizes they'll need to turn to someone other than a therapist.

Danish-born director Ole Bornedal initially achieves above-average results with his macabre doings, which are ostensibly based on real events. But returns diminish noticeably as his film approaches its overwrought climax.

Clyde and Stephanie's situation is used as the vehicle for a strong pro-marriage message, however. In one poignant scene, Clyde watches as Stephanie and the girls sit down to dinner with Stephanie's boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). The quartet makes up a family circle from which Clyde feels both physically and emotionally excluded.

Another plus is the respectful treatment of the Jewish faith in Juliet Snowden and Stiles White's script, including Clyde's fervent recitation of the 91st Psalm at Em's bedside. Of course, the admixture of folklore, like that of the dybbuk, though necessary to the filmmakers' purpose, tends to blur the bright line between mere legend and revealed truth.

The film contains some violent and potentially disturbing images, a premarital situation, at least one use each of profanity and crude language and brief sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

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