Australian director Chris Sun is known for his violent, frequently quite viciously so, genre films such as Charlie’s Farm and Boar. The Possessed however marks his first attempt at a supernatural film, and it’s based on the allegedly true exploits of Mark Gardener who claims to be able to perform exorcisms, he calls them “clearings”, and free people from demonic possession. Of course, I don’t believe Gardener’s claims, but hopefully, it’s at least an entertaining bit of bullshit.
The Possessed certainly opens on a promising note, with a man dragging a woman from a bathtub full of blood. This is Jacob (John Jarratt, Rogue, Wolf Creek) and the woman is his wife Carissa (Simone Buchanan, Patrick: Evil Awakens, Neighbours) and she’s just tried to kill herself again while possessed. Jacob casts the demon out, but it appears and whispers something before vanishing as it had appeared, in a cloud of smoke.
His nephew and partner in the exorcism business, Liam (Lincoln Lewis, Bait, Black Site) drops by on his way into town to see his girlfriend Atalie (Lauren Grimson, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, The Osiris Child) DJ. Jacob warns him that the demons are planning something big, Sure enough, one is in the club during Atalie’s set that night stirring up shit and she’s the only one who can see it.
Despite the creepy first few minutes, The Possessed quickly becomes a mess. The clearing mostly consists of Jacob waving his hand over the bound Carissa and asking “Whose body is this?”. It’s not the least bit scary or compelling and a later scene where he performs a clearing on a busty woman in a plaid schoolgirl skirt looks more like the start of a bondage video than a horror film.
Despite the fact he can’t stop every demon in hell from taking a turn with his wife, Jacob and Liam run a wellness clinic offering exorcisms and massages. They even do house calls. And then Liam just happens to end up dating a woman who can see demons as well. Even I can’t suspend my disbelief that much.
To make it worse, The Possessed really doesn’t have a plot. It just sort of bounces from clearing to clearing with a couple of flashbacks thrown in. Then in the last half hour, our three leads plus a couple of friends find themselves locked in a house with Akumana, “the third demon born out of the nine sons of Satan”. This demon is so powerful Jacob has to have seizures rather than just wave his hands to get rid of it.
Mark Gardener himself was involved in the making of The Possessed and I have to wonder how much influence he had over the project. Because Sun knows how to make a horror film, and he knows how to get inside the psyche of his characters. This is never scary, indeed it’s frequently unintentionally funny, and the characters have no depth or psyche to explore. It all reminds me of a pilot film for a network TV film, only with a bit more swearing than I remember being allowed. It even ends with the promise of a franchise that sounds like Supernatural meets Ghostbusters.
The film does have a couple of cool-looking demons, especially the winged one that shows up in the final scenes. But despite their appearance and alleged capabilities, there’s little blood and the less said about the film’s body count the better. Anyone going in expecting something even remotely resembling the director’s previous dark and brutal films will be disappointed.
Shout!Factory will release The Possessed on DVD and Blu-ray as well as Digital and VOD platforms on October 18th. You can check their website or the film’s Facebook page for more details. You can find suggestions for more films like The Possessed on FilmTagger.