“He that diligently seeketh good seeketh favor; But he that searcheth after evil, it shall come unto him.”
– Proverbs 11:27
Writer/director, David Jung, takes a risky step in his first feature-length horror film, The Possession of Michael King. Possession films sank to the bottom of the barrel years ago and seemingly enjoys its time there. Most horror fans can list a dozen terrible films in the sub-genre without much effort. Every once in a while, we’ll get a clever and wholly evil film like The Last Exorcism, but they’re on the decline. When I sat down to watch this latest entry, I had a little hope, and holy shit, that hope paid off.
Documentary filmmaker, Michael King (Shane Johnson), loses his wife unexpectedly; leaving him alone with their young daughter. The personal kicker? Michael’s wife was seeing a medium before her death. It turns out this “psychic” indirectly led to Mrs. King’s death. Distraught and searching for ways to cope, Michael decides to create a new documentary about the nonexistence of the supernatural. Placing himself at the center of the experiment, Michael studies many forms of the occult and documents his experience with the various mediums. Satanism, Voodoo, necromancy, astral travel; King touches on several forms of ancient evil to present the truth to the world.
It wouldn’t be a horror film if one of these occult practices didn’t stick, and dear God, how it sticks. Accompanied by his cameraman, Michael posts an online ad about the film, and the response is overwhelming. Hundreds of people respond, representing the different subsets of occult practitioners, and thus begins Michael’s dark experiment. I have some personal experience with the occult, and it’s genuinely refreshing to see a new filmmaker go to such lengths to present these alternate practices. Necromancy? *in best Gob Bluth voice* COME ON!
Satanism and all its pleasurable pursuits are invoked, DMT is used in one ritual; in theory tricking the spirits into thinking Michael is truly dead. This is the equivalent of my friend Tony, who wants to douse himself in goat blood and invoke “Satan” in the basement of Bobby Mackey’s Music World. The message of the film is crystal clear: go looking for evil and it will find you.
What separates this from thirty similarly themed films of the last ten years, is the adherence to its bleak subject matter. This is about a mourning man who can’t fully process his loss, or his hatred for all things perceived as supernatural. The harder his presses his film, the darker the path he traverses until true, unfettered evil wraps itself around Michael like a funeral shroud. It’s here that we become worried for the protagonist. Michael’s slow descent into a living hell is nothing less than damnable and calamitous. The once articulated, likable character unravels on a terrifying level. His fall is punctuated by electronic interference, a constant static in his ears, and finally, a legion of voices.
The special effects don’t take center stage, but rather works in unison with a terrifying audio layer designed to emphasis Michael’s deterioration and looming insanity. The Possession of Michael King was a nice surprise, and I think horror fans will want to judge for themselves. Overwhelming evil, imagination, tense acting and directing; all the components of the film mesh well. I cringed a time or two, and that’s no easy achievement.
The Possession of Michael King slithers into theaters August 22, and iTunes/VOD August 26.