The Possession of Michael King

I’ve seen so many found footage horrors, it’s untrue – they’re cheap to make, and you can use the same old frights to get your viewers. Seeing as they are almost always terrible, watching them is more upsetting than it is frightening. The Possession of Michael King is not brilliant, but it anchors itself around a convincing lead character and manages to be a lot better than most of its bedfellows.

Michael King (Shane Johnson) is a filmmaker who doesn’t believe in God, the Devil or anything supernatural. After the sudden death of his beloved wife a few months ago, he decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of the supernatural, making himself the centre of the experiment. In an attempt to prove that it is all nothing more than superstition, he allows demonologists, necromancers and other various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest spells and darkest rituals they can find on him – something does happen, however, and an evil and horrifying force takes over him.

As a horror fan, there can be few words more terrifying than ‘found footage horror’ but, in fusing it with the demonic possession genre (both of which have seen a slurry of cheap garbage in recent years), The Possession of Michael King manages a bit of a new perspective that is not as terrible as it could have been.

This documentary style answers one of the perennial questions of found footage – why do they keep filming? (And no, screaming ‘people have to know’ is not a satisfactory reason.) However, it falls prey to two of the genre’s big failings – one is camera shots from angles that couldn’t have been filmed. The other is one of its scare strategies, a variant of the old quiet-quiet-LOUD frights – the film will be quiet and begin to go static-y, and the picture will cut out. A second or two of black, and then something loud will appear, intended to make you jump. It’s cheap, and it’s lame.

Although there is a minor supporting cast, this is very much a one-man show, and the film would fail hard were Shane Johnson’s performance not up to scratch (it’s a shame that there isn’t a little more meat to the few other characters, though. King has a daughter who is there solely to be scared, the demon experts who are weird and creepy just because and some others to up the body count at the end).

Here, Johnson is impressively committed, and his descent from normal and sceptical filmmaker to mad and possessed is impressive (even if, like me, you think his entire plan is preposterous and somewhat silly). There is more to him than your typical dense horror teenagers, and that you can go along with him when we’ve seen this all before and know it won’t end well is a testament to his acting.

The only other good thing I can plug here are the movie’s practical effects – Michael undergoes all the typical possession effects, including vomiting blood and self-mutilation (multiple times, and they’re all realised very well). Acting can only go so far – in these kinds of films, you need some degree of gore or (please no) CGI to sell the possession as well. It’s minimal by comparison, but it works well.

Bits of the film feel a touch unnecessary and, thus, bits feel like they’re dragging – in a picture as short as this one, that is a bit unforgiveable. All the stuff you do have, you’ve seen before, but this movie tries to play them a bit straight (or, in scenes such as the demon summoning kit, for a chuckle) and largely succeeds. The protagonist isn’t particularly likeable, but he is believable, and it places The Possession of Michael King above a lot of the garbage horror films lining shop shelves. It’s not terrible, but if you’ve ever seen a found footage or a possession film, it’s all the same.

2.5

2014

Director: David Jung
Cast: Shane Johnson (Michael King), Ella Anderson (Ellie King), Cara Pifko (Samantha)
Running Time: 83 Mins
Country: USA

Image credit: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/possession-michael-king-film-review-726245

Reece Goodall

One day, long ago, a man had a dream. Then he woke up and started writing film reviews instead.