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.
How would you like to spend a night shopping with the stars? It's all possible thanks to the ever-intimidating Anna Wintour! The Vogue editor-in-chief came up with an idea in 2009 where retailers in NYC would stay open past their normal hours and offer in-store events to promote shopping and help stimulate the struggling economy. She called the night Fashion's Night Out, and it always takes place the Thursday before New York's fashion week begins.
FNO has become such a phenomenon that celebrities even take part in the festivities. From performances to guest appearances, A-listers are stepping out to support this stylish shopping extravaganza. And so in case you plan to participate, here is a list of where you can go tonight (in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago) to rub elbows with some of your favorite Hollywood stars.
NEW YORK CITY
Bloomingdales (1000 Third Avenue New York NY 10022): Actor Eddie Cibrian (6-8 p.m.), star stylist Rachel Zoe (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
Bottega Veneta (699 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): Actress Rose Byrne (6-11 p.m.)
Coach (595 Madison Avenue New York NY 10022): Saturday Night Live's Seth Myers (7-9 p.m.)
Completely Bare (25 Bond Street NYC NY 10012): RHONY's Cindy Barshop (6:30-10:30 p.m.)
DASH (119 Spring Street New York NY 10012): Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Jersey Shore's DJ Pauly D (6-8 p.m.)
David Yurman (712 Madison Avenue New York NY 10065): Camilla Belle (6-11 p.m.)
Dolce & Gabbana (825 Madison Avenue New York NY 10065): Justin Bieber (6-11 p.m.)
Giorgio Armani (760 Madison Avenue New York NY 10065): Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett (8-10 p.m.)
Jeffrey New York (449 West 14th Street New York NY 10014): Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe (6-11 p.m.)
Kiehl's (109 Third Avenue New York NY 10003): AJ Maclean of the Backstreet Boys (6-11 p.m.)
Lord & Taylor (424 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10018): Solange Knowles (6-9 p.m.) and Ivanka Trump (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
Lucky Brand (535 Broadway New York NY 10012): Project Runway star Tim Gunn (6-11 p.m.)
Macy's Herald Square (151 West 34th Street New York NY 10001): Tommy Hilfiger (5:30 p.m.), celeb DJ Samantha Ronson (6-7 p.m.), Kelly Rowland (7-8 p.m.), Pretty Little Liars actress Shay Mitchell (8-9 p.m.)
MAC Cosmetics (109 Spring Street New York NY 10012): Beth Ditto (8-9 p.m.)
Manolo Blahnik (31 West 54th Street New York NY 10019): Sarah Jessica Parker (6-11 p.m.)
Marc by Marc Jacobs Men's (382 Bleecker Street New York NY 10014): Bar Refaeli (6-10 p.m.)
Marc Jacobs (163 Mercer Street New York NY 10012): Dakota Fanning (6-10 p.m.)
Michael Kors (610 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10020): Michael Kors (6-11 p.m.)
New York & Company (715 Lexington Avenue New York NY 10022): Real Housewives of NY cast mates Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, Kelly Killoren Bensimon and Ramona Singer (6-10 p.m.)
Payless Shoe Source (716 Lexington Avenue at 58th Street New York NY 10022): Designer Christian Siriano (7:30-9 p.m.)
QVC (428 Broadway at Howard Street New York NY 10013): Kris Jenner, Heidi Klum, Donald Trump (6-11 p.m.)
Rag & Bone (119 Mercer Street New York NY 10012): Stars of Lala's Full Court Life Carmelo Anthony and La La Vazquez (6-11 p.m.)
Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): Kris Humphries (6:30-10 p.m.), Ne-Yo (8-9 p.m.)
Sephora Times Square (200 West 42nd Street New York NY 10036): True Blood's Kristin Bauer, Kat Von D, Kate Walsh (6-11 p.m.)
Stuart Weitzman (625 Madison Avenue New York NY 10022): Michelle Trachtenberg and Hayden Panettiere (6:30-10 p.m.)
Ted Gibson Salon (184 5th Avenue 2nd Floor New York NY 10010): Twilight star Ashley Greene (8-10 p.m.)
Tiffany & Co (727 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): Leighton Meester (8 p.m.)
Versace (647 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): DRAKE (7-10 p.m.)
Victoria's Secrets (591-593 Broadway New York NY 10012): Angels Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Erin Heatherton and Lily Aldridge (7-10 p.m.)
The Beverly Center (Beverly Blvd lvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048): Nicole Richie (5-11 p.m.)
The Grove (189 The Grove Dr Los Angeles, CA 90036): Lauren Conrad (7-8 p.m.)
Westfield Topandga Canyon (6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park, CA 91303, USA): Tori Spelling (6:30 p.m.)
900 Shops (900 North Michigan Avenue Chicago IL 60611): Bravo fashion guru Brad Goreski (6-9 p.m.)
Macy's State Street (111 North State Street Chicago IL 60602): Kelly Osbourne (6-8:30 p.m.)
Macy's Aventura (19535 Biscayne Boulevard Aventura Miami FL 33180): Real Housewives of Miami's Alexia Echevarria (6-7 p.m.), Real Housewives of NY's Jill Zarin (6:30-7:30 p.m.)