By Lois Kennedy
Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, Catalina Sandino Moreno, David Mazouz
Blumhouse’s 2016 film centers around Dr. Ember, a gifted guy who is able to enter the subconscious minds of people who are possessed. He’s also hunting for the entity that killed his wife and son and left him in a wheelchair. His chance comes along when single mother Lindsey finds her son Cameron possessed. Unfortunately, the entity is stronger than ever, and Ember is in for the battle of his life.
The premise is pretty original, for a possession movie. The whole subconscious concept is a refreshing take on a tired genre. Also different are the circumstances surrounding the possession. Instead of the possessees being miserable and trapped, they are treated to delusions that they are reliving their happiest memories or living out a fantasy. The themes are singular as well. Instead of being a religious commentary like The Exorcism of Emily Rose or The Rite, about how the existence of demons proves God’s presence, the demons, a stand-in for emotional trauma, are transferred by physical contact and exorcised by breaking through the fantasies of a perfect life.
Even the scare tactics avoid cliches (for the most part). Early in the film there’s a scene when Cameron hears mysterious thumping noises and then a shadowy figure runs by in the background, but after that the movie gets going in its own way. I like how instead of the done-to-death full-on funky body rot copied from The Exorcist, possessees are identifiable by their creepy red, raw eyes, deep voice (and telekinesis)–and it works.
Ember is a bit of a stock character; his pathos gets old really fast, but I prefer that to cheesy one-liners. He has one and gets it out of his system early. Actually the movie changes in tone repeatedly, going from action movie style in the beginning to more traditional for the genre angsty, giving it the feel of multiple writers who didn’t agree where the movie was going. However most of the contributions are worthwhile and keep the movie interesting. This is the first movie I can think of when I would welcome a sequel or prequel, because the idea of subconscious demon battling is fascinating.
There were a couple of things that made me question credibility, though. In one scene, Ember is being menaced by a creature that’s right on top of him and he cuts its throat, causing a splooge of blood, but he rolls away without a drop on him. Then there’s the fact that Cameron kills people while he’s possessed but faces no legal consequences whatsoever. The corpses pile up, but he’s free to chill in his room without even being questioned.
Overall, I enjoyed it. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something suspenseful and entertaining.