Despite starring in movies with big cultural impacts, like Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, and, of course, the Twilight saga, Nikki Reed has never been able to completely watch one of her films. That was until she went to Austin for the SXSW Film Festival.
Reed —along with her co-star Thomas Dekker, writer/co-director Victor Teran and co-director Youssef Delara — premiered their psychological drama Snap to SXSW audiences, and the actress was thankful to have them (and her husband Paul McDonald) by her side.
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"I've never actually been able to successfully sit through a film premiere for a movie that I'm in," Reed admitted to Hollywood.com during an interview at SXSW. "I'm overly self-conscious and it makes me nervous and I can't really enjoy the film. I basically held hands with Thomas and my husband on both sides." Reed added, "I will say, regardless of all of those horrible insecurities, I felt really proud and really excited to be a part of this."
Snap follows the story of Jim, a talented dubstep musician suffering from schizophrenia (played by Jake Hoffman), who meets and falls for a social worker named Wendy. Their relationship quickly takes a turn for the worse when the voices in Jim's head (shown as a physical manifestation named Jake, played by Dekker) get louder and louder, and Wendy and all those around Jim fear for his life and their own.
"It's a stimulating and provoking picture, ultimately we wanted to take people on a journey," Delara told Hollywood.com. Teran, who worked with Delara on 2012's Filly Brown added, "[Snap] explores the voices that we all have in our heads, not necessarily just with schizophrenics: the negative voice that everybody has, the voice of insecurity."
Just as the experience for the moviegoer is a challenging one, it certainly challenged the actors during the movie-making process as well. For Dekker, Snap was a welcome change of pace. "I've played the victim so much more than playing the instigator, so that was new for me. [It] was such a release of energy with this rage and with this attitude. It was intense, but in a pleasurable way," the actor said, adding, "whereas I think it was a little different for Nikki."
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Reed said that while she would make a film like Snap again, she struggled with the subject matter and the intense nature of the movie. "It was really kind of a disturbing process for me, and I didn't even realize that until I was done," the actress said. "It's funny how the people around you can understand. Like, my mom said, 'I'm so happy you're done with that movie,' just because everyone else is so affected by what you're going through."
"Wendy is constantly questioning who she is and what she's doing, the choices she's making. Was that appropriate? Was that inappropriate? Everything about her became everything about what I was doing in my performance," Reed said. "That's who I became, I was questioning everything I was doing. It was a hard place to be in for so long."
Still, despite how hard the process was, the choice was a no-brainer for Reed post-Twilight phenomenon. "Twilight was a huge part of my life...I don't feel the need to quickly let that go and kick that to the curb, but I'm always drawn to good material, and this was easily one of the best scripts I've read in my career," she said of signing on for Snap.
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Another thing that made Reed happy about the project was the role of Wendy itself. "As a girl, you don't normally find such complex characters written for women, where it's not about sexuality, and it's not about being pretty." Reed said, "That was something I really appreciated about this."
[Photo credit: John Sciulli/Getty Images]
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There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.