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.
The way Season 11 has progressed, the only cut that would have been truly shocking on American Idol was if Hollie Cavanagh was sent out the door. Not only because the contestant has proven to have the staying power of a pimple on prom night, but also because Wednesday night featured a theme, British Night, that played right into her roots. So it's really not all that shocking that one of our early frontrunners, Skylar Laine, was the contestant actually sent straight out of CBS Television City. Sad? Yes. Shocking? Not entirely.
I even predicted her possible elimination following her stellar performance night Wednesday. Not that I ever wanted her to be sent packing — Skylar was one of the most consistent performers to ever hit the Idol stage. But that was precisely her problem — in order to find success on Idol, you need an intriguing storyline that extends past your love for ATVs and gunfire. The singer might be far more professional and recording-ready than the likes of Hollie, but the latter contestant is currently enjoying the benefits of the “dark horse” label that fueled previous contestants like Season 10’s Haley Reinhart and Season 7’s Syesha Mercado straight to the Top 3. Skylar, on the other hand, was simply an awe-inspiring performer week in and week out, which is hardly enough to inspire drama-loving teens to race their phones faster than Jennifer Lopez can say, "WeloveyouJoshuayoumustwinpleasesing'Blue(DaBaDee)'formesoIcaninexplicablyoverpraiseit."
Luckily, Skylar will be just fine. If Season 5’s sixth place finisher, Kellie Pickler, can use Idol to jumpstart a lucrative country career with her red high heels, so can Skylar with her diamond-studded pistol. And, dear fellow Idol fans wondering if Skylar’s cut means we are indeed “headed straight for hell” — as the outgoing contestant sang — the rest of Season 11 will be just fine too. In fact, Hollie’s mere presence might just make this season even more exciting. (I know what you’re thinking: What? No! But bear with me, friends.) As I mentioned in my recap last night, Idol viewers love to root against a contestant who they perceive undeservedly outlasted their favorite. (See: Danny Gokey, Scott Savol, Sanjaya Malakar.) From a pure talent standpoint, the Top 4 might have been better off with Skylar, but from a drama standpoint? Hollie certainly dazzles.
Thursday night’s Idol did, however, deliver a shock more stunning than Skylar’s cut: A terrible performance from Season 4 winner/superstar/owner of amazing legs Carrie Underwood, who I can only hope was braving a sickness during “Blown Away.” Country royalty or no, even Simon Cowell would call the number “dreadful” and ask Carrie if she went to the same tanning booth as Willy Wonka’s workers. Seriously, the only thing that blew harder than Carrie during that performance was the ridiculous wind machine. ZING!
So we shouldn’t fear for our dear Skylar — she managed to outperform a superstar like Carrie with “Gunpowder and Lead,” even after being dealt a crushing, not-quite-expected blow. Here’s hoping she seeks solace in faux boyfriend/fellow undeserved fallen Idol Colton Dixon. But were you surprised by the cut, readers? Shouldn’t we at least be glad Hollie will be able to dine on Twinkies and Spam after the Apocalypse? Are you, like me, the teensy bit angry that Joshua got another opportunity to enjoy standalone praise that should shoot him straight to victory? Was Jessica’s dress really almost the most damaging style choice on TV since Keri Russell’s haircut-that-shall-not-be-named? Did anyone else notice Phillips’ absence during the Ford Music Video (and feel relieved he didn’t have to dress like a fairy tale version of Mystery like Joshua)? Has Phillip stopped caring so much that he chews gum on stage?! And wasn’t Coldplay Coldplay? Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard More: Phillip Phillips Backstage at Idol: 'I'm not trying to be some boy that tries to look good.' American Idol Recap: Playing Favorites Idol Winner Kris Allen on His New Album, Colton Dixon’s Defeat, and Phillip PhillipsAmerican Idol