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Film / The Possession

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Those moths are gonna leave a full stomach.

The Possession is a 2012 supernatural horror film directed by Ole Bornedal and co-produced by Sam Raimi. It was released in the United States on August 31, 2012, with the film premiering at the Film4 FrightFest.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a recent divorcee, takes his daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis) to a yard sale, where Em picks a beautiful wooden box carved with Hebrew letters and no clear lock or latch to open it with. A box that whispers. And has a tendency to telekinetically thrash and physically distress those it dislikes.

Throughout the course of a month, Em is ensnared by the Dybbuk trapped inside the box as it slowly possesses her. Can Clyde and ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) figure out what is happening to their daughter in time, or will she be lost forever?

The film is interesting for drawing on Hebrew folklore to create the spiritual nemesis facing the family, making it different from standard ghost or demonic possession horror films.

Not to be confused with the 1981 European film Possession.

This film provides examples of:

  • Agony of the Feet: Stephanie at one point confronts Emily/Abyzou in the kitchen, barefoot as well, only with a lot of breakable glass nearby. Ouch.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Em is okay, and Clyde and Stephanie remain friends. However, the Dybbuk somehow manages to get Tzadok killed in a car accident and is most likely going to be passed on to another unsuspecting victim.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Rather, a lady, being Em's teacher.
  • Body Horror:
    • Brett's teeth fall out during an encounter with Em. More ironic when you consider he's a dentist.
    • Those possessed by Abyzou suffer this. In the early stages of her possession, Em glimpses the Dybbuk's fingers at the back of her throat. Later, her eyes rotate all the way around until they're completely white, and the Dybbuk's hand can be seen through her cheek. Moths also exit and enter her mouth at various points. Later, when Abyzou jumps from Em to Clyde, his eyes also rotate. Abyzou later exits his body by crawling out of his throat and mouth.
    • And, lastly, the true form of Abyzou itself - a small, deathly pale, humanoid creature with an unsettlingly huge mouth.
  • Bugs Herald Evil: The purpose of the film's use of Macabre Moth Motif: when they arrive, something bad is about to happen, and they have a lot to do with the titular possession.
  • Butterfly of Transformation: Rather, "Moths Of Possession."
  • Demonic Possession: Unlike normal demonic possession flicks, the Dybbuk needs multiple "trips" between the box and its future host to lay the groundwork for a full entry. Afterwards, it takes another week or so to fully take over.
  • Dramatic Wind: Whenever the Dybbuk is about to lay the smackdown.
  • First Father Wins: Clyde's ex Stephanie is dating, and becoming progressively closer to Brett much to his chagrin. It's clear throughout the movie that both still have some chemistry and UST underneath a lot bickering. By the end of the film Brett has run off after losing all his teeth to the Dybbuk, and Clyde and his family are closer together after beating the monster.
  • Hollywood Exorcism: Averted. It's a Jewish exorcism!
  • Humanoid Abomination: Abyzou's true form is this. Shown quite fully when they are being expelled from Clyde's body and as they are crawling back to the box.
  • I Know Your True Name: There's two ways to get a Dybbuk to leave a body. One is an exorcism, and the other (much safer) way is to command it into its box by using its True Name.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: The film poster is actually a light indication. All through the movie moths are portents of very bad news.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Mirrors at first show when a Dybbuk is affecting a person. Later on it shows up again in an MRI machine.
  • Precision F-Strike: During the climactic exorcism, Em/Abizu drops one.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Zig-zagged. In Jewish folklore, a Dybbuk is a ghost, not a demon. On the one hand, Dybbuk is correctly described as a soul of a deceased person looking for a chance to live by taking another host. On the other end, it is given demonic properties and even named Abyzou, which is the name of an actual unrelated female demon from ancient Near-Eastern Europe folklore. She is assimilated to Lilith in Jewish folklore, and is said to cause miscarriages and infant mortality.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Though the Dybbuk isn't a split personality, it's takeover of Emily is a lot like one.
    Emily isn't here any more.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Averted twice. It's Clyde who first notices something supernatural was wrong with Em (though in an interesting turn it was the school that picks up on the change in behavior first), and Stephanie who is the skeptic. Later, when the Dybbuk actually takes him up on his offer and changes from Em to possessing him.
  • Three-Point Landing: A possessed Em does a bizarrely cool pose during the final showdown.