The film tells the story of documentary film-maker Michael King (Johnson) who following the sudden death of his wife, Michael decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of the supernatural, making himself the centre of the experiment – allowing demonologists, necromancers, and various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him – in the hopes that when they fail, he’ll once and for all have proof that religion, spiritualism, and the paranormal are nothing more than myth. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King. And it will not let him go.
I have to admit and say the Possession genre within horror is not one of my favourites. Once you have seen that one film from the 70’s which was and always will be the “king” of this kind of scare, it makes all the others seem redundant, despite some good offerings over the years. The Possession of Michael King which was released today (June 6th) is another found-footage horror….sigh! and added with my lack of love for this kind of film, you can see why I was a bit apprehensive when this landed on my lap today!
Ever since Paranormal Activity became a massive horror smash, a week does not go by without a film trying to ape its glory. While 99% of those straight to DVD offerings are ghastly and takes you a while to rid the memory of the wretched watch, there is now and again that one that makes you sit up and take note! Thankfully good old Michael is one of those films!
The man in question is grieving after the death of his wife, Samantha (Cara Pifko). Blaming a tarot reader (a Dale Dickey in an uncredited role) whose advice one day, made his wife change her plans which instead of something good happening -like she said it would- ended up in her young tragic death, Michael is consumed with guilt, rage and a need to understand why. Being a true atheist, Michael decides to film a documentary, showing the world that there is no such thing as the after life, that there is no evil or good, and uses himself as a guinea pig.
Obviously with us watching and this being a horror film, Michael soon realises that there are certain things in life you should not play with and inviting dark forces into his home, especially with his young daughter Ellie (Ella Anderson) upstairs, means mayhem and chaos can only possibly follow.
What could have been just a run of the mill addition to the genre actually turns out to be something else and that is mainly due to the star Shane Johnson who as Michael King, is virtually in every scene and is totally memorising. This is a guy who is really saying he has nothing to lose and somehow for a well worn storyline, he brings an unexpected weight of emotion that had me transfixed to the screen as the horror unfolded. He starts off as a broken man, to half way in denial, to then accepting he is wrong to finally finding the strength he lacked at the beginning of his introduction. Without Johnson giving his performance of a life time on screen, Michael Knight would not be half as good.
What writer/director David Jung has done is put two genres together, the possession film mixed in with “things that go bump in the night” and the results are startling, even though at times it does not seem that we are watching a Found Footage horror. The usual “cameras all around each room of the house” shot may bring signs of weariness from the viewer, but at times it seems Jung forgets what kind of film he is making as we get camera scenes that in my eyes can not possibly come from the handheld filming of King. Maybe this was intentional from Jung and it does help the film on many levels especially for those viewers who are now sick of shouting “Put down the camera you idiot and RRRRrrrruuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!”.
Jung also borrows a trick from the Insidious movies, in which music helps play a part in many of the jump scenes and I was quite taken aback at how many times I did flinch in my seat by the sudden scare facing me.
Those who dismissed Paranormal Activity for having hardly any action will find a lot of love for this film. With a brief running time of under 85 minutes, there is no boring talk or filler which many found footage horror do these days, instead this goes for the juggler and simply does not let go. From the off we see King trying to debunk all things spirits and even doing the first twenty minutes of him going around and trying new darker stuff, is intriguing and never once boring.
Once the possession kicks in, the film does falter at times only because it offers nothing new to what we have not seen before, but once again the change from this father figure to a man losing hope and his mind to this evil inside him, carries through because we believe in what is happening thanks to Johnson. His body twisting in impossible positions, while a voice from from within can be heard are scenes that you simply can not take your eyes off and I can only praise the attempt on show.
Talking about that “voice”, how effective that was! I watched this with the curtains closed, lights off and all on my own and when some parts of the film flickered on and off and all we could hear was mumbles and that tone, I admit that I tried to ignore what was being said, because for a few moments I thought I was in there with King and there was no way I wanted my own mind to start playing tricks on me. That’s how at times this film got right under my skin!
If there are complaints, the film does fall apart towards the climax, especially with a final resolution that fans have seen before in a well known and much loved film, but apart from that, The Possession Of Michael King was a delightful addition to an already great list of horror films from 2015.
Its a dark, grim and unsettling piece of cinema that teaches many things for us the viewer. It makes us question the world around us and beyond, but most importantly, teaches us to try not to seek out what is out there. The end of the day if we go knocking on some doors, we may not like who answers…………
4 Hatchets Out Of 5