Director – Andrzej Zulawski
Cast – Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen, Heinz Bennent, Johanna Hofer, Carl Duering
Release Year – 1981
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This little known 1981 film was made aware to me by a fellow horror reviewer, and after hearing some great things on this film I decided to give this one a watch over the thought that it may be good enough to make my Top 10 Horror Movies of 1981 list. While I did not enjoy this film as much as I thought I would it does make for a very dramatic horror film with some good elements of horror that are sadly only sparsely thrown in.
Possession follows husband and wife Mark(a young Sam Neil; Event Horizon, Daybreakers) and Anna(Isabelle Adjani). One day Anna leaves Mark and their child and for unspecified reasons and then appears and disappears periodically after that. Mark decides to follow his wife to see what she is up to, and his investigation leads him to another man that she has been seeing. Unfortunately, the “other man” is the least of Mark’s problems, as the true reasoning behind Anna’s weird behavior is something he never imagined.
After reading a little on the film I went into this watch expecting a dramatic output, but my expectations were nothing compared to what I was given in this film. You know the female craziness that went on in Antichrist? Well, if not for the genital mutilation seen in Antichrist then Possession would blow Antichrist out of the water.
The story can get downright confusing at times, and comes very symbolic of the horrors and trials of love and female psychosis. Anna’s character brings on the utmost amount of conflict possible for such a film, and it may be so much that some will be turned off to the events that ensue as a result of her. I can honestly say that I have NEVER seen a crazier female in a film, and that comes as a result of some scenes involving Anna, namely the “subway” scene, that I honestly could not believe were going on before my eyes. They were not necessarily bad, but just outlandish and did not appeal to me one bit. Sam Neil gives a great performance as Mark, who slowly succumbs to moderate psychosis as well thanks to the insane antics of his horrendous wife. Sex plays a prominent role in the film, and is also where the horror comes in. The vast majority of this 2 hour film consists of the psychotic elements involving Anna, but the few scenes of horror that we get are fascinating and provided some genuinely creepy scenes. I will not give too much away, but let’s just say we get some insane tentacle rape action in this one. Yeah, seriously.
Direction-wise Andrzej Zulawski did an OK job with the film, providing some good horror during the scenes that called for it, but failing in other areas. His execution of the drama was good and provoking, and while I may not agree with his usage of Anna at times other’s mileage my vary. One element he universally did not succeed with was the pacing of the film. For a 2 hour film you really have to “sell” it to the viewer with good visuals and a story that keeps the viewer engaged. Sadly, the film drags like crazy and never seems to find a groove to pace with. This falls more on writing than direction, but good direction can save lesser-writing, and given Mr. Zulawski wrote and directed his piece this is in regards to him nonetheless.
Overall, this is an OK watch that I did not enjoy as much as I wanted to, but one that I can expect for the extremes it brings to the genre. The interesting storyline made for a unique watch that may confuse some, and sadly the pacing is slow. We get some really good horror in this one, but sadly the horror is scarce and not used to its full and awesome potential.