EXCL: Director & Cast Talk to Us About The Possession

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Lionsgate brought the director and some of the stars of The Possession to the San Diego Comic-Con this month and Shock was there to talk to the trio.

On hand to discuss the supernatural thriller, opening August 31st, were director Ole Bornedal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Natasha Calis. They talked with us about the film’s emphasis on character development over violence, strange goings on, on set and how horror fans will react to the film. 

The film is a retelling of Los Angeles Times writer Leslie Gornstein’s article “Jinx in a Box” about an antique wooden box purchased on eBay which reportedly had been brought to America by a Holocaust survivor after World War II. The box, supposedly containing an evil spirit, brought devastating effects to a series of buyers. Inspired by these real events, the film centers around a cursed relic containing mysterious familial tokens that is mistakenly purchased and its new owner must solve its mystery to save her own family.


Shock Till You Drop: Tell us a little bit about the storyline of The Possession. 

Ole Bornedal: The story is about two divorced parents, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Kyra Sedgwick. There is a certain sadness hanging over the split up family. They have two little girls, played by Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport. They are a little bit victimized by what’s happened. She buys this box at a yard sale and it turns out that is a Dibbuk box. In Hasidic Jewish tradition, they would catch an exorcised demon in the Dibbuk box, which would be protected by a certain person in the village. The part of the film that is based on a true story is that in 2002 one of these boxes was sold on eBay and actually destroyed a family. The little girl messes with the box when she shouldn’t have and she becomes possessed by the demon. 

Shock: You have historically directed films that you write, but you didn’t write The Possession. What was it about the script that made you want to direct The Possession?

Bornedal: The humanistic story, the character piece in the story was appealing to me. It was very imperative for me to tell the studio and the producers that I felt the foundation of this film was on the relationship between the divorced couple and the children who suffered from it. I saw it as more of an allegory on divorce more than I saw it as a typical horror film. The approach to the story was actually telling a very psychological true story about the sadness experienced by a family; on top of that, all this craziness starts happening. What legitimized the story for me was this very beautiful and sad humanistic foundation to it. 

Shock: Did you make any changes to the script?

Bornedal: No, we did a lot of modifications. I think we did more to actually tell the story about the parents and the psychology of the characters. I don’t like horror movies as a genre, that much. I find a lot of them disgusting or too bloody or tasteless or lacking real characters. To me, no matter what genre, a great film always has great characters. If you couldn’t make great characters out of this film it wouldn’t be anything. It was fortunate working with brilliant actors. The actors were able to find the sensuality and the sadness of the characters. 

Shock: How violent is the film?

Bornedal: I don’t think it’s that violent or gruesome of a film. What I tried to work on was more silence than noise. It’s a stupid old conventionality that noise is scary. But, actually, in my world it’s the other way around. I think silence is scary. If you are sitting alone in a big dark house, it’s not the noise that scares you; it’s the lack of noise that scares you. The more you can have happen in the mind of the audience, the better. Then I’m appealing to a fantasy and your inner demons and neurotic frustrations. That’s the psychology of a true horror film, in my opinion. As I told you, I’ve never really watched horror films. But, I have been watching Polanski, who was part of my upbringing. I watched Repulsion and The Tennant. The Exorcist is still a great film. Poltergeist is still a great film. They are great films because you believe in the families that are tormented. You believe in them as human beings. 

Shock: What can horror fans expect from the film? 

Bornedal: I think they will experience a deeper horror experience because some of the layers of the film go beyond the realm of special effects or a crazy bleeding maniac. It’s real people that are being hurt by something invisible; something nasty that transforms an innocent little girl in to a monster. Horror fans can expect a more profound experience. 

Shock: Did you have to make any sacrifices to secure a PG-13 rating? 

Bornedal: There were a few sacrifices. As a filmmaker, you don’t want to humiliate yourself by cutting scenes out that you feel worked tremendously well. I don’t understand the MPAA or American censorship, but who does? Then again, watching the movie, I know the secrets. I know how some of the scenes were told. I watched the film in the PG-13 version and I thought it was a pretty scary movie. I’m more than satisfied. 

Shock: Maybe, we will see a director’s cut or an unrated version, down the road. 

Bornedal: I don’t know. Maybe. 

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