Friday, October 3, 2014

Possession of Michael King, The (2014)

Director: David Jung
Notable Cast: Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko

So far this year, horror has been (more or less) pretty damn mediocre. Combine that with the dime-a-dozen nature of possession films and you could say that I didn’t necessarily want to dive into The Possession of Michael King with a whole lot of enthusiasm. Yet, I have to admit that this straight to home video, semi-found footage, possession flick came a rather efficient and creepy surprise to me. On paper the film looks like it might be damn near everything I dislike in the current horror genre, but the resulting film in The Possession of Michael King is a frightening look into the spiraling nightmare that one man creates in his attempts to search for a dark side to the spiritual life.

Michael (Johnson) has never been a believer in God or any other religious element despite his wife’s continued attempts at persuading him. After an accident takes his wife and leaves him on his own with his young daughter, he becomes obsessed with disproving religious elements in all the darkest ways imaginable. While his sister helps him with his daughter, he decides he’s going to create a documentary about his trials and tribulations with the black arts…and what he’s going to discover is that some things are not meant to be played with.

Finding yourself can take you to some wacky the flea market.
The Possession of Michael King is not a full fledge ‘found footage’ horror film. Yes, the style of hand held cameras, security footages, and playback are all present for the entire film, but never is this film indicated to be ‘found footage’ of this event. Director David Jung allows the film to play out more in a traditional manner and only uses the camera style and editing to build on atmosphere, tension, and scares. The pacing for the film is particular and impactful at times although occasionally it does get a bit too ridiculous (the actual demonic summoning ritual is almost laugh inducing instead of scary,) but the film moves in such ways that even the more outrageous beats are not apparent immediately. It’s not an element that’s easy to pull off for films utilizing this approach, but Michael King seems competent in doing so…much to my surprise.

So there are a few elements that don’t quite make sense throughout due to the stylistic choices, but overall the film plays out like a nightmarish decent into a possession fueled hell. It’s a film that is remarkably subtle with some of its scares and tension, there is a running theme with ants that works to punctuate this as time goes on and his possession gets stronger and stronger, and it’s driven by a pretty phenomenal performance from Johnson as the titular Michael. His transformation, not only in acting but also in slight make up changes and some strong visual effects in the final act, is truthfully the highlight of the film and Michael King takes full advantage of his talents in many ways.  Whether it’s the more subtle anger that arises when his wife is mentioned or the more traditional creepy-voice laden demonic portion at the end, Michael King is propelled by his work.

Oh, that's 7 years of really bad luck.
It’s not necessarily a film for everyone and perhaps I was in the right mood for a film like this, but considering the trashy possession films that have been hitting the market lately (see my review for The Quiet Ones here) The Possession of Michael King is a well executed and refreshing spin on the genre. It’s tight in the writing, paced extremely well with just enough surprises to keep it interesting, and it’s motivated by an impressive lead performance to make it all work together. It’s not a wholly unique horror experience, but the resulting film certainly hit all the right buttons.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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