Dybbuk in a Box

The Possession: based on “Jinx in a Box” by Leslie Gornstein; written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White; starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Clyde), Kyra Sedgwick (Stephanie), Natasha Calis (Em), Madison Davenport (Hannah) and Matisyahu (Tzadok) (2012): Quarter-baked horror movie about a Jewish demon in a box and the family that encounters it.

Mom, Dad, two daughters. Virtually all characterization in the movie is as follows: Mom and Dad are divorced because Mom is a shrew and Dad is always away coaching his college basketball team. Daughters are mad at Mom and Dad. One daughter dances with her high-school dance team. One likes funny hats. The latter daughter gets Dad to buy her a wooden box at a yard-sale. Now you know as much about these characters as the film-makers seem to.

Oh-ho! That isn’t just any curiously alluring, seemingly unopenable wooden box. It’s a box with a Dybbuk — a Jewish demon or spirit of malevolent intent — imprisoned inside!

Hijinks ensue. Many of them seem to involve the belief that moths are really scary when in fact they really aren’t, or at least the moths chosen for this movie aren’t. Unless you’re made of upholstery, I guess. This may be the first movie possession that could have been solved with a $2 box of moth balls.

As no one involved with this movie sat down and came up with a reasonable list of powers for the Dybbuk, it’s one of those supernatural beings whose powers are exactly configured to the requirements of the plot. And it seems to be just as dangerous inside the box as it is outside. This is what Republican cutbacks on governmental oversight for Dybbuk-box construction have brought us to.

About the only thing the Dybbuk can’t do when it’s in the box is move its own box. You’d think this would make it really easy to get rid of. You’d be wrong. In place of interesting, intellectual explanation and exposition of matters supernatural, the movie simply has the father read about Dybbuks and possession on the Internet. Probably on Wikipedia. He learns it all in one night.

Of course, one thing may occur to you very early in the film. If we don’t want the Dybbuk out of the box, why put a secret latch on the box? And if the thing is so dangerous even in the box, why does the woman at the beginning have the box sitting in her living room? Is this some sort of Free Will for Dummies thing? In any case, Fyvush Fynkel was much scarier as a possible Dybbuk in the Coen Brothers movie A Serious Man. If his face showed up on an MRI of your stomach, then you’d be a-scared. Based on a true story in much the same way, I expect, as Shrek was based on Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Not recommended.

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