My notes on The Possession Experiment.This is one of several recent films which bear signs of having been conceived as found footage features then rejigged as more conventional narratives – it opens with a disastrous attempted exorcism being chronicled on video (we’re significanrly that only the camera guy survived) then picks up twenty years later with weirdo college student Brandon (Chris Minor) and stoner lab mate Clay (Jake Brinn) setting out to do a class vlog project on exorcism, roping in med student Leda (Nicky Jasper) to monitor blood pressure when Brandon goes so far as to start a GoFundMe-type campaign to finance his own possession (airily, he says that if it works they can get in an exorcist to expel the entity). This involves using a cloth-wrapped creepy ouija board found in the old house of the prologue … and after an apparent failure as Clay’s live-streamed invitation to demons seems to go unheard, the mild-mannered guy starts acting wildly out of character. Obviously, this leads to levitation, puking, swearing and murderous attacks on people who’ve given him a hard time – in that possessed-nerd-wreaks-hell-on-bullies gambit that was whiskery when trotted out in Evilspeak back in 1981.
Director/co-writer Scott B. Hansen (Monumental) treads several well-worn paths with the exorcism business (harking back to The Exorcist, as so many others have) and a cracking-up-on-camera protagonist. Though the thin mystery about the hero’s connection with the opening sequence (in which guest star Bill Moseley shows up briefly as an exorcist) never really amount to much, there is an interesting, upto-the-minute angle in the crowdfunded parapsychology. As Brandon puts his soul at risk, the film cuts away to random folk who’ve laid out ten dollars watching in voyeuristically – of course, when things get wild most people claim it’s a special effects scam (understandable, since the manifestations all resemble things we’ve seen dozens of times before) and the thread about the culpability of all these backers is dropped in favour of more familiar material.
The leads are all okay – Minor manages to be resolutely ‘off’ even before the demon moves in, while Brinn and Jasper bring nuances to thinly-written druggie slacker and nice girl roles – though the supporting players are pretty inconsistent. It’s far less focused than The Taking of Deborah Logan, which tackled the same set of ingredients with more brio, but not a complete write-off. Kt Fanelli gets to show off as the initial possessee, biting priests with her filed teeth and snarling hateful bile while levitating. Co-written by Mary J. Dixon.
Here’s a trailer. It hits US DVD, On-Demand, etc on December 6.