At first blush "The Possession" might seem like all of those other films about the paranormal we've seen in recent years with shaky cameras, CGI monsters and jack-in-the-box-style scares. But this one, modeled more after "The Exorcist" and "The Omen," than, say, "The Blair Witch Project," is different. And it is loosely based on the real-life accounts of people who had the worst of luck after encountering a certain purportedly demonic "dibbuk" box.
Yes the dibbuk box is real. And no, the cast of the film didn't want to get anywhere near it. When presented with the option to see the actual box, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Clyde (the father), told Yahoo! Movies, "I didn't want to," adding with a laugh, "I didn't want to get scared -- really is what it is. It might of freaked me out a little bit."
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Stories of the real-life dibbuk box started spreading about ten years ago as the box was up for sale on EBay. The L.A. Times even wrote about the buzz surrounding the spooky box -- which contained two locks of hair, a dried rose bud, a granite slab, two wheat pennies, a candlestick and one purported "dibbuk" -- an evil demon, according to Jewish folklore. One previous owner of the box said he had to create the site dibbukbox.com and change his phone number in order to deflect growing, and unwanted queries. People who have reportedly encountered the box claim horrors ranging from unexplained locked gates and breaking glass to hair falling out and even a stroke.
When someone offered to bring the real box to the movie set, Morgan said he was adamantly against it. And 13-year-old lead actress Natasha Calis simply said, "bad idea." Calis plays Em, Clyde's daughter who quickly becomes obsessed with the box, later in the film becoming wholly possessed by it. She is the key centerpiece of the film, which truly hinges on her ability to believably portray a young girl with a literal inner demon. "I watched it [from] the perspective of an audience member -- not watching me on screen because that's not really normal -- and I was very scared," she said of her first screening of "The Possession." But during filming, Calis says she wasn't scared in the least. "It was such a friendly, happy environment," said Calis, who noted she was thoroughly prepped before each scene and that the crew was told to quiet down in order for her to concentrate ahead of each take.
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A great irony about the film is its actors -- even the film's director Ole Bornedal -- don't actually believe in ghosts and demons. Still, they didn't want to take any chances. "I believe that if you believe strong enough in the paranormal, that paranormal will happen. I don't think it's just in the world... It's more like if you put words to it it becomes real and that's why you shouldn't talk too much," said Bornedal, who recounts refusing an invitation to see the real-life box by the family on which the film is based. "I'm ashamed to say I turned down the invitation. I didn't want to go there. I didn't want to dive too deep into this because it's just a question of what kind of energy do I want to lean up against," he said.
When it comes to believing in the paranormal, Morgan said, "Look, I'm a skeptic, I'm not going to lie. That being said, there were some weird goings on during the filming of this. Lot's of light bulbs exploding and just overall creepiness." Indeed, Bornedal said that after filming wrapped, the storage house in Vancouver that housed the film's props -- including the fake Dibbuk box -- burned down. "Still to this day the Vancouver Police Department doesn't know the cause of the fire," said Bornedal, who avoided definitively tying the incident to the lore around the haunted box. "Perhaps the producers just burned it down for marketing reasons," he joked.