MVD Marquee Collection: Possession (2009) - Reviewed

In addition to being a film whose title can easily be confused with a certain Andrzej Zulawski genre classic, the 2009 film Possession represents another classic example of a South Korean genre classic (Addicted by name) transformed into a misbegotten mediocre Americanized remake ala Spike Lee’s ill fated redux of Oldboy.  Remakes can either expand upon or diminish the power of the film which influenced it.  In the case of Possession, the film all but squanders the opportunities presented by Addicted, leaving viewers with a half-hearted dud that ends before it really can begin.

A clever premise spoken of the same breath as Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes, Addicted and the remake Possession concerns a young woman torn between her husband and his riff raff brother.  After a car accident leaves both men comatose until the bad brother reawakens claiming to in fact be the woman’s husband, the woman begins believing that her husband’s brother might actually be possessed by her husband’s spirit.  Actual spiritual possession or something more down to Earth?

While the original Korean film Addicted was a complicated erotic thriller which posed as many existential questions as a Kim Ki-duk film, Possession co-directed by Swedish born director Joel Bergvall (in his first English-language effort) with the help of Simon Sandquist boils it all down to another Sarah Michelle Gellar genre thriller ala The Grudge.  Rewritten by Queen of the Damned screenwriter Michael Petroni, the film starring Gellar, Guardians of the Galaxy villain Lee Pace and character actor Michael Landes takes the premise of Addicted and bulldozes over whatever the Korean film sought to achieve in favor of cheap PG-13 thrills. 

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Lee Pace are fine in their respective parts, with Pace’s personality drastically changing from before and after the accident.  While the transformation from boorish reprobate replete with a criminal record as a violent offender to soft spoken golden boy is an admirable feat for the actor, Gellar who has been a gifted actress in the past coasts on autopilot here.  As the frightened housewife starting to wonder whether or not the man she’s known all her life to be a troublemaker is really her reincarnated husband, Gellar simply doesn’t sell it believably.  It doesn’t help the actress reportedly did not know the name of the film she signed onto.

Due to underlying financial problems plaguing the film’s production company YARI Film Group, Possession went from a planned theatrical release to being dumped on home video after the company filed for bankruptcy.  Originally intended to come out in 2008, the film wasn’t released domestically until 2010 though some international territories saw a theatrical release.  Having seen the film, it is unsurprising that this turned out to be a troubled production as the finished product feels half-hearted. 

Picked back up and re-released by MVD Marquee, Possession is the kind of film that was probably better off being left in the forgotten purgatory of straight-to-DVD movies.  My friendly suggestion is to seek out the original Korean film and leave this one on the shelf.  While that film was rife with emotional discoveries echoing Antonioni’s L’Avventura, this one never gets off the ground or comes with anything substantive to say.

--Andrew Kotwicki