Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Possession of Michael King: A Guide To Demon Possession

W riter and director David Jung brings together in one film practically all the ways that one can open the door and invite a demonic being home for supper.  Shane Johnson stars as the unbeliever Michael King, a documentary filmmaker whose worldview has suddenly taken a dark turn.  Little Ella Anderson stars as his daughter Ellie and Cara Pifko plays the unfortunate Samantha.  Blood and gore fans will appreciate this R rated thrilwrler.  “The Possession of Michael King” runs just short of an hour and a half.

I am not a fan of found footage films, with a few exceptions, so let me start there.  Jung's film starts innocently, but we all know that nothing in this film is going to turn out well.  The family enjoys a picnic in an L.A. park.  Michael, who is behind the camera, focuses on his "perfect" family, Sam, his wife, Ellie his 8-year-old daughter, and, oh yes, and the family dog, Fishbone.  After some terrible accident off screen, that leaves him a widower, and a single father, Michael becomes determined to debunk mediums as charlatans, the occult as fake, and religion as a house of greed.  To do this, he sets out to film his excursion into the realms of sexual magick, using drugs (LSD), and hypnosis to help open the doors to the other worlds.  

I think the time for found footage films needs to end.  The point of found footage is to give the audience a heightened sense of realism and to cover the lack of budget and production values. Sometimes the utilization of the found footage gimmick dampens the actual horrors taking place.  Although Jung does a decent job, I think to remove some aspects of found footage and allow the camera to peer into the ghastliness that a fallen or shaky camera doesn't allow.

**Minor Spoiler alert**  

Shane Johnson does an excellent job portraying a man whose life is turned upside down.  Taking on Necromancers, and other occultists with a sense of righteous cynicism and allowing himself to be the guinea pig on one hand is commendable, but ultimately foolhardy considering that he eventually puts not only his sister Beth's (Julie McNiven) life in jeopardy, but his own daughter's as well.  Using a variety of jump scares, sudden booming audio scares, plenty of blood and gore, and dead birds Jung raises the hairs on the back of your neck.  For example, Michael carves, and then sews up a pentagram on his chest.  Unfortunately, Fishbone dies a horrible bloody death (this is a warning for the PETA folks).

Don't answer the voices!

What I liked about this film is that Jung takes several well known and clich├ęd ways of summoning a demonic entity into his life, which keeps the pacing of the film moving along quickly.  There is no need for the requisite exorcisms and chanting just plain weirdness.  Although the daughter is put in peril as the film develops and as Michael's possession progresses, the refreshing concept was that Ellie or any child is not the demon's host as in "The Exorcist," "Evil Dead," "The Ring," "The Possession," “The Last Exorcism”  or as in "Insidious."  What kept me glued to the screen was wondering how in the hell did King’s wife die.  

A somewhat above average horror film, ultimately, "The Possession of Michael King" makes no significant contribution to the Horror genre in general, and to the paranormal sub-genre, or to the found footage sub-sub-genre.  One could see evidence of influence from "The Exorcist," especially the ending, and the dead wife syndrome from "White Noise."  King goes through all the stages of possession or madness (which could have been played up a bit more) including insomnia, voices in his head, seeing things that are not there.  As possession films go, this one doesn't really have any new surprises but besides the self-mutilation and the apparent murder of the family dog, "The Possession of Michael King" is pretty tame.

Movie Data
Genre: Horror
Year:  2014
Staring: Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko, Julie McNiven
Director: David Jung
Producer(s): Paul Brooks
Writer: David Jung, Tedi Sarafian
Rating: R
Running Time: 83 minutes
Release Date: 8/22/2014

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