Warning: Don’t Open the Box

Possession: What the Film Is About

Based on a true story, The Possession is the terrifying story of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie Brenek (Kyra Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. But as Em’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, the couple fears the presence of a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a Dibbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host.

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) and Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”), The Possession is directed by Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch), written by Juliet Snowden & Stiles White, and produced by horror master Sam Raimi along with Robert Tapert and J.R. Young.

From horror master Sam Raimi and legendary Danish director Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch, The Substitute) comes a contemporary supernatural thriller that is based on a terrifying true story of paranormal events — and the unleashing of an ancient evil into our 21st Century world. The film chronicles the experience of one family over 29 days, after they acquire a mysterious antique container, and unsuspectingly let escape an insatiable demonic force that has been lying in wait to take full possession of a human soul.

Warning: Don't Open the Box

The descent into fear begins for the Brenek family at a typical weekend yard sale. Newly divorced father Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is still getting used to life apart from his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), but he sees little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em (Natasha Calis) purchases a mysteriously inscribed wooden box that catches her fancy. Yet as soon as she does, awfully strange things start happening. Em becomes increasingly obsessed with the box – to the point that she carries the curious object everywhere.

Her behavior grows darker and darker, even dangerous. Yet try as he might, Clyde cannot separate Em from the box, not even when Stephanie begins to believe it is causing their daughter to lose her mind. Plagued by one disturbing and inexplicable event after the next, the family is about to unearth the truth of what is really happening to them: they have opened a Dibbuk’s Box… and the dislocated spirit warned of in ancient Jewish folklore that had been trapped within now seeks to devour its human host.

Dibbuks 101

Throughout history, one of the darkest and most relentlessly persistent of human fears has been that of possession – the blood-curdling idea that your body and mind could be overtaken by a hungry, inhuman force with a sinister will of its own. All manner of demons and phantoms have been rumored to prey on our souls, but unique among them is the Dibbuk. A Dibbuk (which literally means “cleaving to” or “an attachment”) is said to be a sinful spirit wandering in limbo, which survives by fusing itself to a living person and inhabiting their very flesh. Dibbuks choose their human hosts carefully. Explains Jewish Theological Seminary professor Edna Nahshon, the typical human host is “usually a vulnerable person, which often means a young woman, even a girl, or someone who has a certain weakness.”

And cautions expert Ilana Abramovitch, editor of “Jews Of Brooklyn” and longtime manager of The Museum of Jewish Heritage, “once it finds a resting spot in the body, it is not ready to go. It wants to stay there. Because you have to understand the dibbuk is trying to escape punishment for its sins. It’s looking for a resting place.” Written about in Jewish folklore consistently since the first recorded case in 1602, carpenters over the ages have built special arks or boxes said to trap the Dibbuks and keep them from tormenting human hosts.

Symptoms of Dibbuk possession are similar to that of demonic possession in other faith traditions. According to Abramovitch, “there are violent convulsions, odd body postures. Things come out of the mouth of the person that they would normally never speak. They could be lewd, transgressive things. And in fact the person will sometimes speak a language that they don’t know, that only the Dibbuk knows. This is a phenomenon called ‘xenoglausia’.” She goes on to explain that although exorcisms are possible and often carried out by a small subset of Rabbinical mystics, “Trying to get rid of the dibbuk is a very, very painful exercise. Having a dybbuk inside you is painful and can even lead to death.”

Dibbuks have been documented as recently as a 2010 case in Israel that showed a graphic exorcism in a You Tube video. Nahshon explains how much attention that case captured, “because it was so anti-modern, because we thought these things do not happen anymore. But they do.”

They also happened right here in America in recent years. In 2004, Los Angeles Times journalist Leslie Gornstein uncovered the story of a man who was auctioning a particularly disturbing item on Ebay: what he claimed was an authentic “Dibbuk Box,” one that had beset each of its owners, including himself, with so much unholy terror that he was desperate to be rid of it.

His story recounted the box’s harrowing effects on its owners to date. Hair fell out. Nightmares stalked entire households. Sudden illnesses struck some owners down, while others saw freakish visions and heard unexplained voices. And every single owner reported a string of horrific bad luck that the seller likened to “all hell breaking loose.”

Related Link: View the Full Production Notes for The Possession