I haven’t seen The Possession yet, but I hear it’s actually really good. A few of my more discerning friends have seen it and reported back with largely positive things to say.
While in San Diego for the Comic-Con I sat down with director Ole Bornedal to talk about horror films (he claims not to be a fan of many of them) and his approach to telling a more personal story amongst the chaos that takes place in the film.
“Based on a true story, ‘The Possession’ is the terrifying story of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil. Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie Brenek (Kyra Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. But as Em’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, the couple fears the presence of a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a dibbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host.”
Head inside to check it out.
On directing something that has the signature feeling of one of Sam Raimi’s Ghosthouse films, but has its own identity as well. “It was pretty easy because I have to admit I’m not always a big fan of the horror genre. They can be kind of like a punch in the face. Bloody and gory. I dislike watching them. I like the subtlety of some of the scarier ones. Like Polanski, I grew up with Repulsion and The Tenant. I also like The Exorcist and Poltergeist. The approach with this film was to make it human and organic with real characters onscreen. When you get real characters and real people up there you can make it truly scary. And Sam understood that from day one.”
But still, a lot of crazy stuff happens right? “Well the sadness of the family’s divorce is the main thing. But on top of that lots of crazy stuff happens of course.”
What did you find in Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgewick that you needed for the characters? “I love actors. Not all directors do, but I do. And we worked to find that sadness and a certain timing that you don’t really see in Hollywood. They’re really good at the awkward silence I needed for the characters. It gives it a real feeling.”
Natasha Calis is quite young and she has to go through a lot in the film. “She’s an amazing actress. I always audition my actors in character, I interview them in character. So she came in for the interview and within 30 seconds she started crying her heart out. She wanted me to help her get rid of this thing that has possessed her. She was crying her heart out saying, “it’s not a he, it’s a she!” And I thought that was just so much scarier. An old woman? So I wrote that into the screenplay. The scariest scenes are not the CGI scenes, but what Natasha does with her face.”
So you consider the film scary then? “In a realistic way. And in a supernatural way, but the stuff that we’re scared of in real life is always more deeply terrifying. Reality is scary.”