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Review: The Possession Experiment (2015)

12141805_10207740932546645_6402245432690732262_nEvery once in a while there is a movie that completely blows me away; a title that raises the bar for independent horror and leaves me a raving, cursing lunatic. The Possession Experiment is one of those films. As the end credits rolled, I felt like I was on a reality show, had just seen something amazing and production started blaring that emotional, aw inspiring music. What a triumphant day for Scott Hansen and everyone who worked on The Possession Experiment with Digital Thunderdome Studios. This, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why I’m happy to have a job as a reviewer; so I can champion films like this one.

The Possession Experiment is written and directed by Scott Hansen with co-writer and producer Mary Dixon. Cast members include Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Devil’s Rejects), Greg Travis (Humanoids from the Deep, Rob Zombie’s H2), Chris Minor, Jake Brinn, Nicky Jasper, Angelo Reyes, Terry Jernigan, Rachel Faulkner, Ryan Ware and Kt Fanelli.

“Brandon Jensen has always loved horror. So when he has the chance to study exorcisms, he decides he is going to go all out. He starts a fund raising online campaign that goes viral overnight. With the help of two people he meets along his way, Brandon shows the whole world The Possession Experiment.”

My full review follows…

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From the moment The Possession Experiment rolled with its owning credits with the stop motion graveyard representing Digital Thunderdome Studios, I was hooked! Films about hauntings, possessions and exorcisms are always high up on my list of things to watch; there’s just something about them that strikes a particularly freaky nerve somewhere in my body. Out of all the horrible things that we as horror fans view on a regular basis, possessions and exorcisms are most likely to actually happen to you. As Brandon (Chris Minor) says in the movie, if you believe in God, then you have to believe in The Devil. If the Vatican has special but secret organizations to perform exorcisms, then doesn’t that give confirmation to the idea that a demon or evil spirit can overtake your body? It’s a chilling thought, but lately films trying to tackle the idea have gone the route of found footage, a film-making style that has over-saturated the market and caused a lot of great films to be lackluster rentals. Luckily, The Possession Experiment went forth into this world as a traditional narrative and this was the best idea possible for two reasons: more of an audience will be drawn to it and the audience will get to see the supremely professional production value at work here.

As someone who has my degree in Media & Film, has worked on a dozen independent films and writes about them on a daily basis, I know a blooper or production error when I see one. In the case of The Possession Experiment, I’m really scratching my head and trying to pinpoint something I can say is a big glaring error, but I can’t find one! Would I have made the blood in certain scenes less watery? Yes. Would I have added a sound effect in certain scenes? Yes, but The Possession Experiment is not my movie, it’s not my vision. I can only be respectful of Scott Hansen’s direction and the decisions from the film’s editors. The production quality of The Possession Experiment is so high that I think it’s good enough to head to theaters. Whether it be select theaters, a limited release or a couple hundred theaters, I believe 100% that The Possession Experiment has way more to offer lucratively and creatively than a title that just heads to the film festival circuit and goes straight-to-DVD. There is massive potential here to become a bigger entity. I genuinely hope that a big, noteworthy company like Lionsgate picks this up. What a knowledgeable, sleek and talented crew.

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The Possession Experiment is clever in every sense of the word and in every area of story telling. This hour and a half feature film has so many twists and turns that you’ll have no choice but to be glued to the screen no matter where you watch. Its unpredictable nature, highlighted against the decaying, winding halls of a decades old abandoned home, a trendy college campus and the demonic spirit lurking ever so slightly in the background will have you rattled. The Possession Experiment is going to shake you. Forget The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Forget The Last Exorcism. If you want to see an unnerving, realistic film about demonic possession, then this is the film for you. Original and terrifying, it’s biggest strength is that it uses old school special effects and practical effects/choreography during its most frightening moments, a decision that made way for a much more enjoyable viewing. To clarify, by going with realistic but uncomfortable symptoms of possession – and foregoing Hollywood’s typical spinal cord breaking, head twirling, bug eating gorefests – you get to enjoy the story and you pay attention to everything happening on screen instead of sitting in your chair waiting for the action to come.

Hell, even the fact that a young man is possessed by the demon instead of a girl breaks the mold in this subgenre of horror. Usually films of this nature use a woman as their central character to make audiences have a bigger sense of empathy but in this case making Brandon an awkward, lovable loser did the trick. I think people who watch this film are going to root for him, Clay (Jake Brinn) and Leda (Nicky Jasper). Another quality that will draw people to this title is its use of fundraising sites and social media platforms, which is arguably how the majority of filmmakers in this business are starting out. Raising money through a “FundMe” campaign online and streaming the possession over social media sites is a genius way to reel in the films target audience while also making it a little trendier to hopefully bring in folks from other demographics. Let me not forget to mention, at least what I presume to be, nods to The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street. That’s reason enough for you to check out The Possession Experiment, too.

What else is left for me to say about this movie? I absolutely loved it and I’m honored to be the first one to view it. It has great special and practical effects, the right hints of nostalgia when looking at the old 1994 VHS footage. It has an amazingly talented cast that is only highlighted more by an equally matched crew. As i said above, The Possession Experiment is an original and frightening tale that is going to set the bar sky high for other films in its category. It’s a triumph for horror films everywhere made on a marginally smaller budget, truly aw inspiring. It’s scary and unpredictable. It’s clever, frightening and enthralling. And, more than anything else, it’s the best, most perfect representation of demonic possession that I’ve seen in all my years of reviewing. Fantastic job, guys.

The Possession Experiment is currently being submitted to major studios in hopes of securing a distribution deal. So sit tight! It won’t be long until you can see this title for yourself. Until then, follow it on Facebook: here.

Final Score: 10 out of 10

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Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)