PLOT: After his wife is killed, a husband and father (Johnson) films himself trying to summon a demon to prove whether spirits are or aren’t real.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who like bad horror movies, or are interested in seeing the latest horror movie with the word “possession” in its title.
The Possession of Michael King begins with a dead-horse stance, raging against the scam of fortune tellers. This thesis is simultaneously groan-worthy and emblematic foreshadowing of this juvenile horror film’s whiny angst, in which a man deduces that the fulfillment of his late wife’s tarot reading means that he must investigate the existence of spirits.
But instead of venturing as to whether heaven is fo' real, or seeing if Greg Kinnear will answer his prayers in a separate story about the better kind of spirits, King recklessly hurls himself into the world of Satanic boogeymen and witchcraft. With his comically laid back cinematographer documenting his smarmy leather jacket-filled interviews, he tempts the powers that may or may not be to do their worst. As one can imagine from this marketed story, King's experiment in proving such nonexistence does not go so well. In a convenient reference to him not thinking through his experiment, King embarks on such spiritual shenanigans in the home of his sister Beth (Julie McNiven) and his daughter Ellie (Ella Anderson).
King's focal curiosity about the spiritual world is embarrassed by his scant perspective - of not thinking through his investigation beyond the idea of a stunt (and even then, Steve-O is considered a professional). Such leaves this overwrought horror movie with a shallow psychological viewpoint, especially in its cheesy depictions of its title character experiencing mental torture. Aside from a million moments in which a possessed King twists and shouts in tiresome demonic agony, there are even more unfortunate moments of middle school poetry. My favorite moment in this category might be when a frightened Michael experiences jeepers creepers while a deviant vision of his face laughs back at him on his TV screen. A scene in which he smirkingly turns the camera on himself, while possessed, is a close second.
This lack of depth within Michael's experiment simplifies the direction given to its lead actor. There is little going on for Johnson besides an acting exercise, a forced showboating through various madman verbs aiming to terrify audiences as a tragic victim. No dice. By about the moment in which a desperate scripture reading very literally backfires on Michael like a Gob Bluth magic trick, the opposite of sympathy has been established in the audience. Only the progression of horror storytelling provides the viewer hope - eventually, in some manner, Michael and his Wes Borland contact lenses will go away.
Co-writer/director David Jung expresses through his debut that he has concepts (not necessarily ideas) in his definition of filmmaking. Jung’s sporadic visions are tiresome or tiring, like the usage of ants crawling on the camera lens, or the hollow terror of watching King trudge around his abode with a cheesy sinister grin on his face. Like with his notion of a creating a somewhat one-man show out of a Paranormal Activity, Jung advances upon these concepts narratively speaking with cheap shots, either in the random scares or moments of emotional tedium. For reasons likely unbeknownst to Jung and his crew, the film ends with the first-person footage of the tragedy that caused King’s tossing into the currents of uncertainty, a capping to the disjointed assembly of rough draft thoughts.
Jung does have some of his visions articulated by a good crew; for what it's worth, the lighting design in The Possession of Michael King produces the complicated shadow work one takes for granted in low-budget horror production. The same can said for his make-up and prosthetic crew, and even the sound designers who create the demonic screech that King emits. The visions he brings in as co-writer and director are underwhelming, but articulated with panache from a crew worthy of the upgrade.
Exorcised from the creative oppressors of plot, character, or subtext, director David Jung finally gets to make the movie he truly wants by assembling a strobing “Headbanger’s Ball” music video for his closing credits. With Jung having created the boisterous title designs himself, this clipshow of Michael King's oopsie-daisies is amplified with a song by composer Mark Binder, which sounds like Trent Reznor abandoned it a decade ago for being too bland. Like the feature found footage of King's investigation, which quickly turns into a fail video about tempting the devil, it's all only lacking a "Beavis & Butthead" audio commentary: "dumbass."
FINAL SCORE: 2/10