Michael King doesn’t believe in God or the Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife, he decides to make a film about the search for the existence of the supernatural, making himself the center 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.
William Friedkin’sThe Exorcist pretty much turned me off to films dealing with demonic possession. That’s not to say I won’t watch them (Although I will not watch The Exorcist ever again. Seriously.), as a matter of fact, I’ve watched dozens of them in the years since Friedkin & Linda Blair launched their assault on my psyche. It’s just that I’m not a big fan of them and to be honest with you, they all kind of run down the same set of train tracks after a while. In other words, if you’ve seen one of them, you’ve pretty much seen them all. The only true difference between them is their efficacy in scaring the crap out of us.
Writer/Director David Jung’s The Possession Of Michael King takes a decidedly different approach to the tried & true tenets of the demonic possession sub genre by doing a couple of things differently. It uses an adult male as the target of the possessive demonic force rather than an adolescent or teenage girl. It also makes him a filmmaker who doesn’t believe in the notion of god or the devil, which gives him a hint of defiance which isn’t the norm for characters in films of this ilk. Sadly, the film also meanders through most of it’s running time (Which is 20 minutes too long) & despite the occasional effective scene, it succeeds much better as a sleeping aid rather than a scary movie.
Michael King (Shane Johnson) doesn’t believe in either god or the devil and when his wife, Samantha (Cara Pifko) dies in a tragic accident, he decides to craft a film in which he would subject himself to an experiment in which he would allow all kinds of occult practitioners to try and actually persuade a demon to possess him. He assumes that none of them will be able to since, in his mind, there are no true angels or demons. But much to his horror, he does indeed get possessed by a malevolent force that’s only desire is to ruin his life & kill the remaining members of his family before it does him in as well.
The script makes Michael a film maker in order to have an excuse for the cameras that seem to capture his every waking moment but the film seems to forget that there are certain shots that are quite impossible to explain since there are no cameras nearby to capture them, but this is one of the tropes of the found footage genre that the film attempts to ape. The overall mood & production design of the film succeed in giving the proceedings fairly eerie & not without some measure of dread but where the film truly succeeds is with its lead performance. Shane Johnson gives a fascinatingly compelling performance in the lead role, he succeeds in making his character vulnerable & despicable in equal turns, and rarely (If ever) hits a sour note. And since he’s pretty much the only character onscreen during much of the film’s prolonged running time, his performance makes all the difference.
At times Johnson goes from feral to fetal all in the same scene and his body contortions have to had cost him more than a few sleepless nights after shooting was done, he also has quite a malevolent grin working in his favor. He’s vicious & vulnerable all at the same time and he’s quite convincing here. It’s too bad that the rest of the cast seem to be going through the motions. It’s not that they’re necessarily bad, in fact no one here gives an especially bad performance here but Johnson does such an overwhelmingly good job, he overshadows everyone else in the cast. The fact that Jung’s script makes just about everyone else really stupid doesn’t help too much either.
As I stated earlier, The Possession of Michael King could use a bit of judicious trimming. It runs somewhere between 10 – 20 minutes too long and not even Johnson’s towering performance can overcome some of the blahs that come along during its prolonged running time. The film really loses a lot of the steam it builds up early on as it struggles to a conclusion that isn’t especially satisfying but acceptable. It’s nowhere near as good as it could be but Johnson’s performance managed to hold my attention throughout and it makes The Possession Of Michael King a decent offering for a slow Friday night when there’s nothing better to watch.
The Possession Of Michael King – 2 out of 5 shrouds.