Movie Review: “The Possession of Michael King”

king1As “found footage” horror movies go, “The Possession of Michael King” is more
unpleasant than scary.

The self-inflicted wounds, menace to innocents and general supernatural
mayhem is nothing we haven’t seen before — the old “body yanked out of the
frame” trick, etc. You see where it’s going and which films it is leaning on for
inspiration. But some folks dig this eyes-averting gore thing, so here goes.

The title character, played by Shane Johnson, wanted to make a little home
movie about his happy family. Then his wife died in an accident and Michael King
decided to go after people who comfort those who have suffered a loss.

They would be priests, tarot card readers, psychics and dabblers in
necromancy. He posts an ad, offering a reward for such people to “prove it.” And
some take the bait.

He blames his late wife’s tarot card reader (Dale Dickey) for convincing her
not to take the trip that might have changed her fate. He dabbles in LSD-boosted
black magic with an enterprising couple of “demonologists.” And he taunts the
religious.

“God or the Devil, if you’re out there, PROVE it! Come and get me!”

The dying young priest (Tobias Jelinek), chain-smoking to the end, warns him
he’s playing with fire. Call the Devil’s name, he hints, and “the Devil will
never let you go.”

And sure enough, the necromancer-mortician (Cullen Douglas) puts Michael
through a ritual that has him hearing voices, seeing things and makes his
cameras and his camera man freak out.

Meanwhile, Michael has a daughter (Ella Anderson) whom he is utterly
neglecting and creeping out with all this nonsense. By the time he is possessed,
sneaking into her room growling in the middle of the night, nuts but still —
apparently — videotaping his actions, he’s beyond the help of the
psychotherapist he seeks help from, or of anything a priest can offer.

Filmmaker David Jung trots out the familiar tricks of the found-footage
trade, extreme close-ups, night-vision footage, creepy, shrieking music welling
up on the soundtrack.

None of which does much as far as frights go.

Johnson, of “Saving Private Ryan,” makes a compelling skeptic, and landing
the formidable Dickey (“Winter’s Bone”) was a coup.

The effects are on-the-money, never more than when Michael, having carved a
pentagram on his chest and realizing what he’s done, tries to self-administer an
exorcism. A ceiling camera captures the book he’s chanting from bursting into
flame.

But what they were shooting for here was skeptic-is-converted tale, a “Last
Exorcism” in which a doubter is freaked out by the reality of much of what he’d
doubted. That comes across, but the message feels muted — broken up by the
demands of that “found footage” format.

We’re constantly wondering, “Who is supposed to be the camera operator,
here?” and “If he’s possessed and crazy, why he is taking the camera up stairs
while he stalks his kid or his sister?”

Yes, glitchy footage that looks like it came from a cell-phone or security
camera is still a great shortcut to “this must be REAL.” But the format is
confining, and leaning on this for a horror story is totally played out. Fifteen
years past its “Blair Witch” expiration date, “Michael King” proves it’s time to
repossess found footage.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: R for disturbing and violent content, language, some drug use
and sexual material

Cast: Shane Johnson, Ella Johnson, Dale Dickey, Cullen Douglas

Credits: Directed by David Jung, screenplay by David Jung. An Anchor Bay
release.

Running time: 1:23

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