MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Possession Of Michael King’ Is Thoroughly Unsettling

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Film: The Possession Of Michael King
Starring: Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson
Directed by: David Jung

If you have seen one movie with a title that begins with The Possession Of… then you have seen them all, right?

If you had asked me that very question a week ago I might have agreed without a second thought, but living in a world where I have witnessed The Possession Of Michael King I no longer know what to think. Blending POV filmmaking with a documentary-like twist on found footage, the film manages to find thrilling new ground in a sub-genre riddled with familiarity. It’s certainly not without fault, but it just might be the best shaky horror story to hit screens this year.

Michael King is a recently widowed man with a young daughter and a lot of questions. His wife, who passed six months prior to the beginning of the story, essentially died because a psychic told her about a big break that never manifested itself. The waiting and anxiety eventually got the best of her, and in turn Michael lost his faith in the existence of anything beyond the physical realm.

Following an encounter with the fortune teller who lead his wife astray, Michael decides to return to his work as a filmmaker in order to demystify the idea of demons and the occult. He begins to document his attempts to contact and conjure demons, which includes interviews with so-called specialists, the purchase of several over-the-counter ritual kits, and even a visit to the home of a couple who claim to conjure beasts in exchange for money. It all seems weird and admittedly silly at first, but somewhere along something begins to change within Michael. His connection with reality begins to drift as his mind becomes filled with the constant done of static, which is a sound no one else can ever seem to hear. To make matters even worse, he also suffers from recurring nightmares about murdering his daughter.

The Possession Of Michael King takes about twenty minutes to find its groove, but once Michael sets off on his journey to debunk the existence of demons things quickly begin to take a turn for the better. As time progresses, Michael’s physical appearance begins to worsen, with noticeable weight loss and sunken in eyes, but that’s only the tip of the transformation iceberg. Something evil has a hold on Michael’s soul, and though he tries with all his might to prevent it from harming others he can feel in his bones that he’s fighting a war he can never win. Still, even when all hope feels lost, he fights to reclaim his sanity and protect his family.

This first person approach to storytelling may not have worked at all if it were not for the amazing acting talent displayed by star Shane Johnson. His ability to connect with audiences is evident from the film’s opening dialogue, pulling you into his world and his desire to uncover the truth behind the demonic legends people have been sharing for so long. I think this is due in part to each person’s own questions about death and the after life, as well as the constant debate over whether or not there is any kind of omnipresent being watching out for us. Michael does not hide his fear of death, but he accepts that he must face that fear in order to find the answers he seeks. In a way, we want those answers as well, and as a result the film is able to pull us in slowly before turning the entire cinematic universe upside down.

When the world Michael knows starts to transform, The Possession falls victim to several genre cliches before finding unique avenues to explore. This means jump scares a plenty early on, but as Michael spirals further and further out of touch with reality there is an overwhelming sense of dread that begins to creep up your spinal column. It’s not an overnight change that does our protagonist in, but rather a slow transformation that allows Michael the opportunity to realize his unfortunate fate long before it sinks in. That’s like knowing when you’re going to die, only instead of turning into a corpse you begin slaughtering those you love. If that idea does not strike fear into your heart, I’m not sure you’re completely human.

Though it has moments when things begin to feel too familiar for their own good, The Possession Of Michael King is a wholly engrossing and impressive piece of indie horror filmmaking. The story, while rooted in familiar concepts, takes on a life of its own before the close of the third act and never looks back. Everything that follows from that point forward is a thrilling and chilling adventure into the mind of man who is losing control of his own body that you won’t soon forget.

GRADE: B

Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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