‘The Possession’ is a stylish, if unsurprising, exorcism movie (Movie review)

“The Possession” doesn’t stand apart from its possession/exorcism genre brethren in any obvious way. It’s not even the first movie of this kind to be based on a true story. And the situation gets more murky considering that “The Apparition” is also in theaters now; I had to remind myself of the name of the movie I wanted to see both in the lobby and when looking for the theater.

That having been said, it’s a solid example of its genre. While some exorcism movies become an exercise in religious mumbo-jumbo and digital effects, “The Possession” is well paced and it maintained my interest in the characters while also throwing in a few distinct scenes of creepiness.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, best known as the dad on “Supernatural,” is likable as the basketball coach/divorced father who gets his two daughters on the weekend. He moves from his New York City apartment into a subdivision, the opposite of a typical horror-movie move. Still, there’s some fun to be had here with the nearby woods and the house’s doggie door, along with the abode’s general sense of having not been lived in. It all has the muted color scheme that you’d expect from Danish helmer Ole Bornedal working in Vancouver.

The youngest daughter, Emily (Natasha Calis, who looks a bit like Anna Paquin), purchases a box at a yard sale that we viewers know is possessed, because we saw in the opening scene what happened to the previous owner. So there’s really no sense of mystery here (not that there would’ve been anyway). Still, Em’s possession and her dad’s frustration at figuring out what’s going on kept me hooked. Kyra Sedgwick has the thankless role of the mom who is the last one to figure things out, although she gets a pretty good idea during a nice kitchen scene where Em asks “Who am I, mommy?” Madison Davenport plays the older daughter, and Matisyahu joins the mix as the exorcist.

The sound design — heavily featuring blasts of low brass — also adds to the sense of dread, although the theater I saw it in (the AMC theater in Independence) had the volume turned up way too loud, making the final act rather cringeworthy.

With all those other horror movies on the market — “Paranormal Activity 4,” “Sinister” and “The House at the End of the Street” will be out soon — not to mention a fall TV lineup with a surprising number of genre shows, “The Possession” will eventually blend in with the pack. But while it doesn’t break new ground in the genre, you could do a lot worse; horror fans should check it out.