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Possessed (2022) Review

Possessed, titled Rasuk in its native Malaysia and not to be confused with the Indonesian films Rasuk and Rasuk 2, is the latest addition to Netflix’s Asain horror collection. While Korean and Indonesian films have become fairly common on our streaming platforms, I still don’t see many Malaysian films turning up, which made the prospect of sitting through yet another zombie film a bit more bearable.

A group of students, including Wari (Abbas Mahmood, Paskal, One Cent Thief) and Adli (Ikmal Amry, Hanya Namamu Laila, Gantung) are having a day at the lake with Adli’s sister Alia (Elisya Sandha, Hero: Jangan Bikin Panas, Kampung Latah Kena Kuarantin) and her friend Fiza (Alicia Amin, KL Gangster: Underworld, The Disappearance of Irdina Adhwa) who have driven up from Kuala Lumpur. Wari, who is a photographer, wanders off to take some pictures and finds a strange bottle. He opens it, releasing what looks like smoke.

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Getting back to school late, the boys sneak in only to be caught by Nazmi (Alif Satar, Town Mall 2, Aliff Dalam 7 Dimensi) a professor who has just returned to work after dealing with some personal issues. But getting caught is the least of their worries, as Wari begins acting very strangely.

Director James Lee (KL24: Zombies, Two Sisters) and writer Adib Zaini (KL Zombi, Polis Evo) make a few interesting choices in the film’s first act, such as giving Wari most of what little character development any of the students get, which includes a budding romance with Alia. One would expect him to be Possessed’s protagonist, rather than spending much of it as a mindless zombie.

The film’s other main difference from most recent walking dead films is the occult origin of the zombies. As you can probably tell from the title rather than a virus the cause of this outbreak is demonic, which places Possessed closer to Lamberto Bava’s Demons and its sequel than a traditional zombie film.

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Unfortunately, Possessed doesn’t do much with that idea until near the end, with much of the film devoted to scenes of the creatures attacking the remaining students and spreading the curse to them. It doesn’t help that as well as having poor makeup, the way that they tend to flail their arms and jerk their heads around often makes them look more spastic than scary. The way they call to each other, like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is a nice touch, but they sound like squealing pigs which tends to ruin the effect.

The demon possessing Wari occasionally gets to speak or otherwise show its powers, but those scenes are few and far between, wasting what could have been an interesting plot element. Imagine a horde of zombies with an intelligent leader, let alone one with supernatural powers. Instead, the filmmakers settled for a generic zombie film, even the tragedy hanging over Nazmi turns out to be a cliché.

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While it isn’t actively bad in the way KL Zombi, on which Zaini was one of the writers, was, it never rises above watchable in quality either. There is plenty of energetic running around and chases, but we’ve seen it all before. There’s also the usual stupid plotting we’ve seen before, too. When Adli finally gets some reception for his phone, does he call the police? No, he calls his sister for help.

If you already have Netflix and are running out of things to watch, Possessed might be worth your time. There isn’t any reason to actually seek it out, though. If you’re curious about Malaysian films, track down a copy of Dukun instead.

Possessed is currently available on Netflix, with dubbed and subtitled versions available for several languages. As usual, I went with the English subtitled option. If you want more films like this, FilmTagger can suggest some titles.

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