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October 23, 2015

The Possession of Michael King

by Franz Patrick


Possession of Michael King, The (2014)
★ / ★★★★

Some movies are so bad, I find myself at a loss with where to begin. But one ought to try.

The death of his wife, Samantha (Cara Pifko), inspires Michael (Shane Johnson) to achieve an ambitious goal: To acquire documented proof of either the existence of God or the devil. In order to do this, he states on camera that he is willing to invoke the darkest spells—one involving necromancy—so that people will certainly pay attention. However, after seeing a series of individuals that consider themselves to be connected to the spirit realm, Michael begins to feel ill and he starts to consider that perhaps there is truth in the supernatural.

Written and directed by David Jung, “The Possession of Michael King” rehashes the same old tropes of found footage films and movies involving demonic possessions. It offers absolutely nothing fresh and so the experience is akin to listening to a person reading our favorite book but the reader offers no emotion, subtlety, or care toward the words being uttered. It is almost as if the writer-director hated horror films and so he actually strived to make his work as egregious as possible so everyone else would feel the same toward the genre. I found it distasteful and a complete waste of time.

I liked a few of the early scenes. The scene between the widower and a psychic named Beverly (Dale Dickey) communicates a smidgen of the protagonist’s anger and grief. Michael, an atheist, is clearly looking for someone to blame for the death of his wife. Because Samantha decided to take one of the psychic’s advice, Michael is convinced that Beverly is partly responsible. The scene is handled just right—we pay attention to the conversation and yet the images, like the tarot cards being placed on the table, are telling us something, too.

Eventually, however, the picture is reduced to a pandemonium of horror clichés. Whenever a would-be scary scene is unfolding, we are barraged with flashing lights, sharp and crackling noises, strange voices, bugs crawling across the camera lens. These things do not work because the script does not appear to understand how to generate tension. There is no attempt at build-up, just a series of tripe designed to scare those who are easily scared. Even on such a level, it fails because at times the material confuses fear with disgust. How is placing the camera being so close to a bloody wound scary?

We learn close to nothing about the main character. Other than the fact that he has a daughter, currently grieving over the death of his partner, and his sister is helping him go through a tough time, there is nothing about his personal life or history that is endearing or noteworthy. There are so many atheists out there who can buy a camera and film. Aside from the supernatural angle, what makes Michael so special that his story is worth telling? His wife dying is not good enough. Jung’s screenplay offers no good answer and that is a mistake. The writer has robbed his story of a necessary dramatic pull.

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