MARCH 15, 2010
Remember the good ol’ days, when legit horror movies were billed as “psychological thrillers” or whatever by horror-fearing producers? Nowadays, it’s the other way around; standard thrillers like Possession are sold as full blown horror movies. The DVD and trailers proudly point out that the film is from the producers of The Ring and The Grudge, and the cover showed a ghostly, Feardotcom-y figure that has fuck all to do with the film. And the title was changed from Addicted to Possession, apparently in an attempt to get it to join Alien, Monster, Werewolf, and several other films where the title shares a name with its would-be HMAD genre tagging.
If you notice, I have not listed this as a Possession movie. But if you’ve seen the trailers or read a synopsis, you know the basic premise behind the film - two brothers, one an asshole (Lee Pace - surprisingly effective as a hardass) and the other a perfect man (Michael Landes), get into a car accident that leaves them both comatose. Pace wakes up and claims he’s his brother, having all of his memories and very much in love with the guy’s wife (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Is he possessed? Did they switch bodies? Or, is the asshole just putting on the most gloriously complicated act in history so he can nail his sister in law? I’ll let you double check the genre tagging and make your decision.
Now, to be fair, at least it grounds the movie in some sort of reality, in that there’s nothing supernatural or metaphysical about it - the dude is simply lying. But in order to work, we have to suspend far too much disbelief; in fact, even more than we would had there actually been a supernatural explanation. Not only does he have to take on all of his brother’s mannerisms, but he has to learn how to sculpt, garden, etc. as his brother did (whereas he seemed to be some sort of electrician in his asshole life). He also has to hope that Gellar never asks him anything he can’t answer, such as, I dunno, one of the presumably millions of things they did together that the brother DIDN’T take a photo of or write about in a love letter.
See, Gellar finally figures out the ruse when she goes through her letters and photos and sees that her husband had written about every single thing that Pace had used to “prove” he was Landes. It takes a full year for this to dawn on her, which is stupid enough (did she not READ the letters when they were given to her?), but again - did she restrict her inquiries to only the most memorable moments in their relationship? I suppose we are to believe that the part of her that wanted her husband back allowed her to sort of live in denial a bit.
In fact, that IS the point of the film’s original ending, which is available on the DVD. It makes the film even less of a “horror” movie, but it’s at least more interesting. Originally, she realized he was lying and just let it slide, because I guess she figured a guy pretending to be her husband was better than nothing. In the ending on the film itself, she confronts him and they have a typical “chase through the house on a rainy night” battle, killing him in the process. Her real husband remains comatose (in the original ending they took him off life support). There’s a bit too much repeated footage on the alternate ending (it’s literally the entire last half hour of the movie, but only about 5-10 minutes are different), and again it makes its horror connection even flimsier, but its definitely preferable to the one that ended up in the film from a creative/storytelling point of view. If you are still interested in watching it after I’ve just spoiled BOTH endings, switch to the alternate after Gellar and Pace make love in the theatrical.
I also think they go a bit overboard with trying to make Landes seem like the perfect man. He brings her flowers (twice!), makes her a cake, decorates the outside of their house with lights, lights a bunch of candles, doesn’t mind when she forgets their anniversary, fixes her grandmother’s necklace.... OK buddy, you’re a god and it would be a real shame if something bad happened to you. WE GET IT. The movie could have benefited from possibly not painting the brothers as such polar opposites - it would make the concept a bit easier to swallow, and they could use that screentime to develop Pace’s character a bit more. Why is he such a scumbag? And where did he acquire such fantastic mimic skills? Interestingly, if you go back and watch the film a 2nd time (or watch it knowing the ending), you can see him “learning” his brother’s styles by watching him garden, make love, etc. So he wasn’t just being a creepy perv, he was doing "impersonate my brother" research! You know, JUST IN CASE they both went comatose someday.
The DVD also has some other deleted scenes, including one where William B. Davis’ hypnotist character more or less spoils the ending, which I assume is why it was cut. The trailer is also included, but you don’t need it because the featurette is essentially just the trailer mixed with brief interview snippets with the stars and directors Joel Bergvall and Simon Sandquist, who wear matching jackets. Not very insightful stuff; they basically reiterate the plot and try to make you think the movie is far more twisty-turny than it actually is. You want a good version of the car accident/amnesia plot? Watch Wolfgang Petersen’s 1991 thriller Shattered, with Tom Berenger. Good stuff, GREAT twist. And if you want to see Gellar deal with unexplained memory problems in an only-sort-of-horror setting, watch The Return, which is far more interesting than this movie (and inches closer to horror territory to boot).
What say you?
P.S. I learned later that the film is (sigh) a remake of an Asian film. Anyone seen it? Actually horror?