I have a long, happy relationship with horror films. As one who firmly believes there could possibly be ‘something’ to that thing called the Occult, every now and then I find myself rewarded with a small feature that comes out of nowhere and dazzles the imagination like few projects could. For all of its modern-day posturing, THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING is such a tale, one that embraces today’s audience requirements (social media trickery, found footage sequences, etc.) but never forsakes the reality that all it ever really wanted to be was a good old-fashioned yarn to keep you up at night.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessarily solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Michael King (Shane Johnson) doesn’t believe in God or The Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife, the documentary filmmaker decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of the supernatural. Michael decides to make himself the center of the experiment – allowing demonologists, necromancers, and various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him – in the hopes that when they fail, he’ll once and for all have proof that religion, spiritualism, and the paranormal are nothing more than myth.”
There’s a bit more, but I suspect that based on that accounting alone you’ll know exactly how enthusiastically you’re inclined to embrace THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING. Personally – in a nutshell – I hope you do … because I found it fascinating.
What works best in KING is the fact that, at all times, the story as told by writer/director David Jung keeps a very flawed human soul at its core: Michael – struggling to cope with the loss of his wife (hang with it until the final frames so that you know for certain why he’s so troubled by it) – is yearning for the answers to existence, and that kinda/sorta existential pang puts him on the ultimately reckless track of trying to find answers to all of the wrong questions. In doing so, he practically races from one avenue to the next, all hoping for information when what he really needed was a form of personal redemption.
Most of the tale is caught via hand-held camera work by either the character (Michael) himself or his cameraman. There are several sequences captured on what looks to be a household security camera; I suspect that’s the case given the fact that at no time was he trying to deliberately bring these ‘demons’ (of a sort) into his home. There’s also a neck-mounted unit (again, worn by Michael) that serves to put the audience up-close-and-personal to the action through much of it; it’s occasionally more distracting due to the obviousness of it all, but that doesn’t make it any less riveting.
The comparisons to found footage films is legitimate, but there’s far more at work in the film that simply trying to recapture some magic that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY have already mined. It’s a human story – one populated with folks no different than you or I – and that humanity makes it a much more personal and gripping experience. In some instances, you’re never quite certain whether or not Michael is in his right mind (though Jung resorts to some of the usually cinematic trickery in the second half to let you know that the possession is real), and that’s when the film excels. It captures a kind of portrait of madness slowly descending over the ‘everyman’ character, and even though you’re inclined to want to look away you can’t help but watch closer.
And there’s ants. God help us but these spirits love ants!
Terrifically chilling after the obvious set-up is out of the way, this POSSESSION might just find you possessed for more.
THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING (2014) is produced by Gold Circle Films and Quickfire Films. DVD distribution is being handled by Anchor Bay Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, this is one smartly assembled thriller, and writer/director David Jung went to some solid lengths to give the film as unique and compelling portrait in sight and sounds as he could. Sadly, the disc includes no special features, and this is precisely the kind of film that deserves something extra to pass along to its fans, of which there should be plenty.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. While THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING could arguably be made primarily for those folks who haven’t yet tired of a good old school horror film taking the shape of the found footage film, it should in no way be limited to solely fans of that sub-genre. It’s certainly frightening enough and grounded in some solid parapsychology for fans of mainstream chillers to spend some time with it if for no other reason than to see some genius scare-making brought to life-after-death. Solidly entertaining.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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