THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT (2016)

Possession Experiment.jpg

Studio:       Momentum Pictures
Director:    Scott Hansen
Writer:       Scott Hansen, Mary Dixon
Producer:  Todd Slater
Stars:     Chris Minor, Jake Brinn, Nicky Jasper, KT Fanelli, Bill Moseley

Review Score:


Summary:

A curious college student conducts a dangerous experiment to prove that demonic possession is real.


Synopsis:     

Review:

An exorcism is underway in a basement fit for a serial killer.  Formerly frumpy housewife Tracy Crowell is in the midst of a Regan MacNeil meltdown, and the devil inside her insists on being unleashed.  With a cameraman recording in the corner, this initial scene rides a rhythm that cuts between frantic ¡°found footage¡± and frenzied assaults as Tracy supernaturally slaughters everyone assembled in her eye line.

Nothing here comes close to being considered a sock-knocker.  Yet energy is enthusiastic enough that this prologue promises ¡°The Possession Experiment¡± might not be half bad.

Would that it were.  Prominently-billed genre vet Bill Moseley, apparently in the Danny Trejo cut-and-run phase of his career, quickly checks out before the title card hits.  With him goes any sense that his singular scene is part of the same film.

After dangling a few misleading carrots about its star and its setup, ¡°The Possession Experiment¡± takes a deep dip in quality from the seven-minute mark forward.  A skeptic might speculate a different person directed the intro.  Another scenario is someone after-the-fact added a superior scene with a notable name to drum up some interest the movie wouldn¡¯t otherwise have.

Flash forward twenty years in the timeline.  College student Brandon has an idea for a project poised to impress his theology professor while making him internet famous in the process.  Brandon is going to prove demons are real by summoning one to possess him.  And he is going to livestream his encounter with evil to the world.

Of course, Brandon needs a Ouija board first.  Luckily for him, the priests who failed to exorcise Tracy Crowell hid one in her basement for some reason.  Brandon is additionally lucky that investigating officers somehow missed the cubbyhole containing the board when they processed the crime scene in 1994 for multiple homicides.

Brandon also needs $10,000.  The stoner classmate and med student love interest partnering with him on the project are working for free and Brandon already has a camera, so who knows why he needs five figures.  One can only assume that the psychic conducting the conjuring doesn¡¯t come cheap.  Why then does she drive a Toyota Echo?

Brandon starts a crowdfunding campaign where anyone who contributes can access his livestream and boom, 1,000 Hamiltons roll right in.  The irony here is that ¡°The Possession Experiment¡± had its own $10,000 Indiegogo campaign to raise finishing funds and only collected $375 from six backers.  If only it were as easy as it is in this movie.

The back half of the film doesn¡¯t get any more believable, either in its fiction or its presentation.  No one needs IMDb to see previous experience is in short supply among cast members.  Actors are either unsuccessful at improvising or regularly struggling to remember their lines.  There isn¡¯t a convincing cadence in anyone¡¯s performance, hinting at a shoot first, rehearse later approach to getting coverage in one take and leaving it at that.

¡°The Possession Experiment¡± is a ¡°friends and family¡± production.  In the end credits you can see several last names reappearing, along with citations for four executive producers, 13 producers, and an additional co-producer for good measure.

What you won¡¯t find listed is a script supervisor, which is no surprise given the continuity pimples that come with every other cut.  A chief reason why ¡°The Possession Experiment¡± looks like a cheap rush job is the film¡¯s awkward editing.  Most blemishes are minor, like someone¡¯s arms crossed in one shot and then not in the reverse or some other slight change in posture.  But these inconsistencies arise so often that the movie¡¯s timing is always off and it feels weird to watch.

Other stumbles are more obvious.  One sequence has the three college kids arriving outside the s¨¦ance site in the same car followed by four people descending into the basement.  In between is an insert shot of that fourth person¡¯s car arriving, though you never actually see the woman getting out of her car or stepping into the house.

The right way to play that scene is to have everyone arrive together.  Or to at least give the fourth character a proper introduction that isn¡¯t simply her suddenly appearing alongside everyone else.  Seems to be ¡°The Possession Experiment¡± had a hard time working around actor availability or royally punted the pooch when paying attention to details.

I want to support aspiring filmmakers trying to break into indie horror, and can be forgiving of low-budget flaws within reason.  Except ¡°The Possession Experiment¡± releases at a time when ¡°The Exorcist¡± is experiencing an unexpected resurgence as a TV series and films like ¡°The Conjuring 2¡± (review here) and ¡°Ouija: Origin of Evil¡± (review here) are bringing in big box office.  Fans aren¡¯t starved for strong supernatural suspense entertainment.  An F-Troop execution simply doesn¡¯t have a snowball¡¯s chance of standing up against a slate of so many preferable alternatives.

Review Score:  20