Most horror fans have likely seen at least thirty possession and exorcism movies, hence understanding the general themes and concepts, and here from music video turned feature film director Scott B. Hansen who co-wrote with producer Mary Dixon; a new variation on this tried and tested method of scares, in the form of The Possession Experiment. Now, first just to mention, the production credit of Digital Thunderdome Studios, with an elaborate graveyard featuring a stop motion skeleton, grabs the attention of anyone, but it also means if one signals this out this early on in the flick. The entire subgenre of the horror films, that possession and exorcism, over 400 films, however, Hansen’s movie changes an interesting tidbit, in most flicks, it is a teenage girl or a woman taken over by demonic forces, here it is a college boy. This is not the first time clearly, but the number of times it occurs in horror movies tends for a much lower amount with a few standouts for example Amityville II: The Possession (1982).
The main story focuses on a student named, Brandon Jensen (Chris Minor), aside from his fascination with horror films also takes his studies seriously namely a class on theology, hence for an exam project chooses the topic of none other than exorcisms, he decides he is going to go all out. However, the setup contains an original start, no buildup just into the deep end of life with Bill Moseley (Death House (2017) and Halloween (2007)) as Father Mark Campbell and assistance from others battling a possessed girl (Malia Diaz) which turns into a nightmare situation filled with gore, gumby movements, and other debaucheries. This becomes the focus of Brandon’s investigation, from locating the house, a crib, and later a very interesting Ouija board, first warning find one in the wall leave it and walk away, so much for someone a student of horror films not knowing those rules. He then decides to go a step further, and show the theology and paranormal worlds the truth of whether demonic possessions actually exists by starting an online campaign that goes viral overnight. It generates warnings from a professor, parents, and others in favor of this reckless behavior. The film hints to the question of God and the Devil, one in the same and belief that if exist both do exist, sadly not explored more deeply. This lays the slow change over for the movie, and to many critics and viewers, it seems as if a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were directing the film, as the film starts crumbling all the nice buildup. For example, in the dorm room, clearly something crossed over into the earthly plane, and using a laptop to harm another student, but instead of doing dorm massacre with excessive T&A, the scenes dribbles downward, and references A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) namely to Freddy. Soon enough some gore returns to the screen, and yet a few more references to The Exorcist (1973).
The movie clearly gives its winning horror icon Moseley the spotlight early on, even for a short period of time, and starts in a positive manner, yet falls into the trait of many others, which proceeded, with ample clichés and foreshadowing situations and twists. Scott’s film hints a tad to The Possession of Michael King (2014) which the lead character desires to disprove the existence of the paranormal by allowing demons to possess himself, sounds a tad familiar. Nevertheless, the live streaming of possession allows for interesting start, using the power of it to strengthen the demons, and learning about him, in the process. The acting hits the standard peaks and valleys after the first act, for some it is their first horror film, while low budget the visuals all have professional look. The special effects all look well done, providing some jump scares, and oozing enough blood and black tar to frighten the unsuspecting.
One must state this is a hit and miss film for most horror fans, depending on your taste for the lot of the possession movies in general, the first portion of the movie, creates clever storytelling, and the second, becomes a tad too much with the false twists, dead ends, and turns, leaving much unresolved, and yet great avenues untouched. The Possession Experiment, distributed by Momentum Films, fulfills the duty of the deliver the ride, it at feels more as a lazy river than a rollercoaster of screams.