With all these horror releases doing Catholic exorcisms to death, it's surprising screenwriters have failed to capitalize on the other side of Judeo-Christian scream-chic, hyping up dybbuks, malevolent spirits of Hebrew origin popularized by an early-aughts urban legend and last addressed in 2009's The Unborn. Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch), whose doom-and-gloom inclinations work perfectly for this project, is armed with a pointed premise in The Possession, but there are a few too many over-polished and half-realized spooks.
Wading through a messy divorce in upstate New York, college basketball coach Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) struggles to maintain a cordial relationship with his already-dating ex (Kyra Sedgwick) for the sake of his sensitive daughters, Hannah and Emily (Madison Davenport and Natasha Calis). Things progress decently enough, but that's before Emily visits a yard sale and picks up an odd wooden box, its cryptic contents immediately becoming a harbinger for weird insect invasions and weirder behavioral changes in Clyde's sweetheart youngest. Every Gentile possession flick features some sort of troubled man of the cloth doing battle with the evil within; this one boasts Matisyahu (yes, that Matisyahu) as a receptive Jewish occult expert recruited to cleanse Emily's sullied soul.
Bornedal's body of scares is more ambitious than your average PG-13 frightener (wait for the MRI scene), doing producer Sam Raimi proud. But too many scenes are telegraphed too far in advance. You'll smile and nod your head more than slide down in your seat.