FrightFest 2012: The Possession first reaction

A film about a box that rarely thinks outside it, The Possession is nonetheless an appealing mix of shocks, slickness and silliness that held FrightFesters lightly in his grip.

Based, inevitably, on a true story, it’s the story of a fractured family torn even further apart by the arrival of an antique wooden box bearing a mysterious Hebrew inscription.

Bought at a yard sale, the seemingly innocent object soon begins to obsess Em (Natasha Calis), young daughter of recently divorced parents (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick).

Inexplicable events (mostly involving moths) start to occur. Em’s behaviour gets more volatile and violent. Dad loses his rag.

Before long, we’re seeing one of modern horror’s most familiar sights: a girl in a nightdress in snarling thrall to demonic forces.

Thankfully, Ole Bornedal’s (2009’s Deliver Us From Evil ) film is more hokey than ho-hum, derivative but spirited.

The opener sets the tone: the box’s previous owner meeting her fate in a manner that’s neither surprising nor especially scary but executed with the polish you expect from Sam Raimi’s Ghost House outfit ( The Grudge remake, 30 Days Of Night , Boogeyman ).

There’s little here that gets seriously under the skin, though an abortive MRI scan comes close.

Still, if Bornedal is better at freak-outs than creep-outs, he keeps a reasonable rein on the CG effects that ramp up as the film heads for the finish line.

Lines like “Please don’t touch my box, dad!” had the audience sniggering, but script and performers (the adults are likeable, Calis terrific) earn a goodwill missing from say, The Unborn or The Devil Inside .

A late-breaking (and clunkily contrived) twist hints at another Possession – not an unappealing prospect, though it’s surely time Satan picked on someone his own size rather than schoolgirls.