The Possession (2012) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The new episode of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw video series looks back at the 2012 film The Possession, produced by Sam Raimi

The episode of Best Horror Movie You Never Saw covering The Possession was Written by Andrew Hatfield, Narrated by Jason Hewlett, Edited by Paul Bookstaber, Produced by John Fallon and Tyler Nichols, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

While every decade has movies that fly under the radar, the addition of multiple streaming services in the 2010s gives us quite the list to work off of. While everyone’s favorite decade for horror is usually the ’80s or ’90s, there are far more hidden gems to find now than ever before. How a movie with a great cast, good production value, and the vaunted “based on a true story angle” was somehow successful at the box office and entirely forgotten just a little over a decade after release is just bizarre. It’s one of the more interesting demon takeover movies we’ve seen and definitely earns its title of Best Horror Movie You Never Saw. Don’t open any strange boxes as we take a look at 2012’s The Possession (watch it HERE).

The Possession was released August 31st, 2012, and ended up being #1 for its opening weekend. It would eventually gross 49 million in the U.S. and an additional 33 million worldwide, all off just a 14-million-dollar budget. It was a Ghost House production that was distributed by Lions Gate so it’s horror pedigree was high and Sam Raimi and Bob Tapert knew they had something special on their hands. The movie has the based on a true story tag on it as it was actually based on an article written by Leslie Gornstein in 2004. Or at least what the article itself was about. That article, called “Jinx in a Box” was about an allegedly cursed wooden box that was put up on eBay by Kevin Mannis. Mannis actually created the whole thing, making this one of the most egregious uses of the true story tag. He carved the lettering and design and claimed that he purchased it haunted.

The so called Dybbuk box may be a creation out of thin air, but the Dybbuk itself is all too real. Based on Jewish Mythology, a Dybbuk is a spirit with ill intent who will possess a person until either they are exorcised, or they complete whatever task they mean to inside their host. The idea of the Dybbuk in cinema goes all the way back to a 1937 polish film by director Michal Waszynski called, you guessed it, The Dybbuk. There was another movie just three years before that has a Dybbuk in it called The Unborn, but there is no accompanying box with that iteration.

The Possession Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

The movie starts with a scared woman staring at a box that is seemingly talking to her. Her hair starts to fall out and before she can break the box, an unseen force begins to melt her face and contort her all around. Her son walks into the carnage, and we are whisked off to our real main characters. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a divorced father of 2 who is an up-and-coming college basketball coach. He has a cordial relationship with his ex, played by Kyra Sedgwick, who has since moved on to a dentist.

Clyde, played by Morgan, gets his two daughters Em and Hannah, on the weekends and takes them to the new house he just bought. Stephanie reminds Clyde about the daughter’s dietary needs which he ignores. Jeffery Dean Morgan is no stranger to horror with big roles in both The Walking Dead and Supernatural while also appearing in one off horror projects like The Resident and The Unholy.

He is great here playing an everyman who just wants to take care of his girls and be the best coach he can be. It’s not his flashiest role along the lines of The Comedian from Watchmen or as the leader of a rag tag group in the criminally underseen The Losers, but it doesn’t have to be. He is believable and gives a good performance.

The morning after Clyde and his girls wake up, the movie follows what the creator of the story made up in the first place. They go to a yard sale where the younger of the two girls finds the box and wants to bring it home, even after seeing the previous owner scream at her to leave it be. The box allows itself to be opened to the younger daughter Em and while nothing important seems to be inside, Em puts an antique ring on.

The sisters are close to each other, and the actors portray it well. Natasha Calis, who plays Em, was also in the Michael Shannon horror movie The Harvest but made her big break in 19 episodes of The Firm. Madison Davenport has less to do here as Hannah but also does a good job. The best compliment you can give child actors is that they don’t seem like kids, and both earn that distinction. Davenport had a 9-episode run on the Showtime series Shameless before this movie came out but really took off after the release and continues to work steadily.

While nothing happens that first night, Em seems off after she opens the box and strange things start to happen. A racoon, or so it seems, enters their house, moths invade portions of their rooms, and Em begins to act out in ways she never did. She becomes especially attached to the box and even tells her dad not to mess with it. Clyde gets an offer from a high-profile school and begins to let other parts of his life, including with his girls. Em starts to go further off the deep end and even attacks a boy at school who tries to steal the box.

The teacher pays the ultimate price and Stephanie isn’t sure Clyde is paying enough attention. The Dybbuk seemingly kills psychically rather than use its host to perpetrate the murders so it can stay inside. We learn this when Em starts to choke and looks down her throat only to see a hand in her throat. The effects in the movie are mostly CGI but aren’t distracting in their execution and the movie is clever in how it uses them.

Clyde realizes the box is somehow related to all the strange happenings and gets rid of it. Em confronts him and is way meaner than any little girl should be. In another good use of showing the demon without showing the demon, Em somehow slaps herself but makes it out to look like Clyde was the one striking her. She runs and finds the box where he disposed of it and has a disagreement with the spirit. In what could be a nice nod to that original screen appearance of the Dybbuk, the spirit in the box speaks Polish to Em and she somehow understands. Stephanie hears what happens and of course takes her children’s side and takes the kids from Clyde.

The Possession Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

The portrayal of the mom could have easily been a throwaway role, but Sedgwick imbues her typical charm that has made her an Emmy and Golden Globe winner. She has been acting since the early 80’s and while she has appeared in a number of different types of movies, this is her only horror film. She has collaborated frequently with husband Kevin Bacon and her most identifiable role is that of Brenda Johnson from The Closer. She has great chemistry with both her on screen daughters and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. You can tell the spark isn’t quite gone between the two and it adds weight and a sense of reality to their relationship.

With time on his hands, Clyde investigates what the box truly is. He takes it to a professor at his college who explains what a Dybbuk is and points him in the right direction. After watching some Jewish exorcism videos, he tries to read a prayer book to Em before the spirit blows it away. Having exhausted all options, he seeks help from the Jewish religious Tzadok who takes him to his father. They refuse to help even after pleas from a desperate man, but they are all afraid of the box, particularly after he says they opened it. The movie sure doesn’t explain much about its creature or even much of it’s background but still excels at making the box and its demon very ominous.

Tzadok decides to help on his own, but it may be too late as Em now starts to attack her mother and mother’s boyfriend. She makes the dentist boyfriend lose his teeth and Stephanie is finally ready to believe that there is something supernatural going on and Hannah calls Clyde to come help. Heading to the hospital, Clyde finds out the name of the demon is Abyzu. This demon is another thing like the Dybbuk that is based in lore. That creature was said to be “The Taker of Children” and won’t be leaving any time soon. An MRI finally shows us a good look at this demon and it’s the best scare of the movie. Director Ole Bornedal is a Danish filmmaker who gave us another Best Horror Movie You Never Saw with Night Watch. This was an American remake of his own Danish film, having him join Takashi Shimizu of The Grudge as the rare creator to do both.

The last stretch of the movie is the actual exorcism where the demon fights for all it has to keep its place in the host body. Clyde trades places with his daughter to briefly take the creature into himself before they are finally able to lure it out and put it back in its box. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long as a car accident at the end of the film sets it free again. The family is finally safe but someone else will surely be a victim sooner rather than later. The movie is a solid if forgotten early 2010’s horror. Sadly, it gets lumped in with lesser movies about possession or the glut of subpar modern horror we get year after year. 2012 was a surprisingly strong year for horror so it’s no wonder this movie gets lost in the shuffle under things like Sinister, Prometheus, and Cabin in the Woods. It even has to battle fellow under the radar gems like V/H/S, The Bay, and Grabbers. When you need a new movie but are afraid modern will let you down, seek out The Possession and cross it off the list of Best Horror Movies You Never Saw.

A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.