Director – David Jung
Cast – Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had been hearing a lot about The Possession of Michael King lately and had to give it a watch to see what the fuss is all about. Staying away from trailers and reviews, I went into the film “blind” with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. I really liked the interesting approach to the possession and it provides fresh air to the convoluted demon possession sub-genre. This effort won’t win any awards and is not a flick you must rush to see, but in the end The Possession of Michael King is an experience fans of demon possession may appreciate.
Following the sudden tragic death of his wife, atheist Michael King decides to make a documentary dispelling the supernatural by taking taking those who use it to task. By allowing necromancers, demonologists, and occult practitioners to use their rituals on him, he hopes to capture their failures on film and prove them to be the frauds he believes they are. Unfortunately for Michael, he was wrong about the dark arts he partook in and an evil force is now taking him over. With time running out and a demonic entity that won’t let him go, we watch Michael’s desperate plight to defeat the evils he foolishly welcomed.
I really like this story because it brings a different perspective to the demonic possession element. Usually a completely innocent and unsuspecting person is possessed, but in this story the lead willingly opens the door to it – something I had never seen before. First-timer David Jung and his co-writer Tedi Sarafian kick things off with a slightly vengeful Michael who displays animosity towards psychics and their cohorts because he feels such belief in superstition lead to his wife’s death. A number of circumstances lead to her passing, but seeing a psychic took its toll on her. Michael’s desire to prove them wrong leads to him engaging in what an angelic person like myself would refer to as very risky behavior. He sincerely tries to have a number of demons enter his body, and low and behold…much to his surprise…he gets his wish. We see this occur about 25 minutes into the film but it remains subtle at first. Michael tries to find logical explanations behind his ever-growing ailments, like the screaming voices in his ears. At the 40 minute mark the horror starts to really manifest and it appears that Michael is in way over his head.
Before this the horror had consisted of mostly cheap jump scares that were largely illogical, like a quick splice of a possessed Michael well before he was ever possessed. Once the horror began to manifest halfway through the piece it never relented. The writers focused much of the horror on Michael himself and did not involve many other characters. His daughter and sister were slightly effected but most of Michael’s suffering involves only himself. When he finally comes to terms with what he has done we see him try every self remedy in the book. Spells and incantations do nothing to save him and we see a very different man from the beginning of the film. Now we have a believer who is living in extreme regret for what he has done. Much to my surprise there is no exorcism in the film. I can’t think of many possession films, especially one with “possession” in the title, that does not include the always-expected exorcism sequence at the end of the film. While Michael’s personal horror consumes the film I never really found it scary. It would be scary to be in his situation, but unless you can really envelop yourself in his character you won’t find many worthy scares despite plenty of “horror”. Because the horror depends so much on Michael and hardly involves anyone/anything else it is one-dimensional. I believe this lack of additional elements lead to the horror not being as effective as it could have been. The demons within him could have served a much bigger role, where their personalities and attributes are brought to screen, but for whatever reason they stayed hidden within Michael and served as lost potential.
David Jung also directs and I will say that he did very well for his freshman effort. This is not a devout POV “found footage” film and the perspective shifts from first to third often. The interesting storyline had me hooked early on and the scenes where Michael tries to become possessed are very engaging. Once the possession takes place we see Michael go through both physical and psychological changes and actor Shane Johnson handles the dramatics very well. Despite a 16 year career this seems to be his first leading role, and it is one that focuses heavily on him and hardly anyone else. With Michael also serving as his own antagonist I applaud Shane for a performance bringing his character from one extreme to the other. Jung’s execution of the horror is mostly positive but it did not hit as hard as I expected it to. With the horror solely based on Michael it lacked the multi-dimensional elements that would have made for increased, or at least more effective, horror for the viewer to enjoy.
Overall, The Possession of Michael King offers a unique premise to the possession sub-genre, but is not the hard-hitting film it could have been. The story kept it a little too basic and never delivered on the scares. Jung’s direction is good, so this is not a complete waste, just don’t go in over-hyped.