Saturday, August 9, 2014

REVIEW: The Possession of Michael King (Anchor Bay Blu-ray)

I've gotta hand it to The Possession of Michael King. It came up with a fairly unique concept for a movie. Take a fairly normal, curious filmmaker who doesn't believe in God and then put him in a faith testing situation where his wife suddenly dies. Then put the standard skeptics question in his head (What lurks beyond death) and motivate him to shoot a documentary about the occult and what comes next. Motivate him to contact a host of alternative religions some of them exceptionally dark and then have the curators of those religions do their worst on him. The goal is to see just what's out there, and what does he find? Everything. Anchor Bay has given us a thought provoking beast of a movie, shot for the most part by cameras used on screen by our protagonist.

Synopsis from Anchor Bay:

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. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King. And it will not let him go. Dale Dickey (IRON MAN 3), Tomas Arana(GLADIATOR), and Julie McNiven (“Mad Men”) co-star in this intense supernatural spine-tingler from the producers of WHITE NOISE and THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT.

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The Possession of Michael King isn't just another possession flick regurgitating the same Exorcist driven plot. It's actually not bad at all especially when compared to a host of standard issue demonic possession stories, but it is far from perfect.  It's not exactly found footage or at least it doesn't feel like it save for some camera shake, strange angles and out of focus shots. My guess is that folks who don't like found footage movies won't be able to get around this techniques employ here either. What stands out in Michael King is some moments of ritual creepy followed by some juicy, masochistic gore. It's not a floor-soaker by any means, but some of the makeup is effective more so because it's fun rather than being overly realistic.

David Jung has created an interesting premise. Let's take all the "evil" religions and rain down their curses and spells on one guy to see what might happen. Unfortunately, what does end up happening doesn't quite go far enough. Sure we get a nice transition from everyday Joe-skeptic to possessed guy with contact lenses with a pentagram in his chest, but there's no perfect money shot. The poster is what you want; a human cocoon for a demon that splatter-stretches its way from King's body. This is hardly the case though I won't divulge the finale.  I suppose I wanted the movie to become a demon monster movie rather than a more reality based study in excess, a creature of Rawhead Rex proportions un-CGI'd and ready to feed. You spend quite a lot of time getting to know Michael King (Shane Johnson) and his performance gets the job done though I feel like he never truly sells the loss of his wife. Also, like many found footage/assembled footage movies, the use of the technique doesn't add anything to the movie. If the point is to create a sense of realism, it doesn't. You could have easily shot this without the camera's presence in the movie documenting the experiment.

If you dig religious horror or possession horror then this will most likely appeal to you. It's not groundbreaking but very watchable, but I would say it simply doesn't go far enough to test the audience. The concept is fresh, the performances are good and the overall tone of the movie is consistent. It does not reinvent the genre. It may frighten the meek among you. It will serve to annoy the POV/Found Footage haters (but they hate everything anyway). The release is fairly bare bones.

The Possession of Michael King arrives on Blu-ray and DVD August 26th.

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