I'm a little bit wary when a horror film touts itself as based on a true story, because one can only take that with a pinch of salt, given that it's a film after all, and there's a need to dress it up for the silver screen and for dramatic purposes. Moreover, having to state the events took place in less than a month, seemed a little bit far fetched, given how the screenplay played things out, which made it look like months instead. Still, for the curious, you may want to look up an article called Jinx in a Box written by Leslie Gornstein, which the events in this film is purportedly based on.
So is it any good, given that the trailer essentially told the entire story from beginning to end? It got better as it moved along, and really tested your patience in the first half of the film since it really took a long time before a turn of events leading to the first boo. It introduced the characters of a dysfunctional family, where Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has already divorced from wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), with the former getting only the weekends to spend time with daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis). The arrangements seem pretty well oiled, with Clyde having moved to another house of his own conveniently located in a new neighbourhood. As part of moving in, they pick up extra dishes at someone's backyard jumble sale, and Em gets attracted to a mysterious box, which gets bought and brought home.
Warning lights are probably flashing now, since stories of old have already warned never to pick up strange looking objects from anywhere and bringing them home. Opening Pandora's Box is also something nobody should do, and when done, welcomes a whole lot of trouble. Em becomes possessed and Natasha Calis almost got a chance to be the next Linda Blair in The Exorcist, except that The Possession minus all the kinky moves that would make parents frown and grown ups blush. Make up also helped to make her look her zombie best, coupled with fans borrowed from a Bollywood studio to let her hair fly around when the air around is still. And for those who object her bout of violent behaviour, especially when becoming possessive and protective of the mysterious box, even stranger things happen, and her unusual behaviour soon triggers Clyde to do some sleuthing of his own.
Credit must be given when credit is due, so Danish director Ole Bornedal did what he could in avoiding the usual cliches of slamming doors and jump scares. Instead, the focus was on building atmospherics through the use of creepy crawlies, and he succeeded to an extent in doing that. It took a while to build up a story, which could have done a lot more with its context of dismissing the change of the child's behaviour because of the psychological pressures in dealing with her parents' divorce, but this never really quite took off.
Instead, the last half hour floored the pedal to the metal, moving at breakneck speed and allowed a battle of good and evil, and dealing with a parent's undying love for his child, complete with self-sacrificing gesture to try and lure the evil that is inside. While there are a whole host of exorcist type films of late, to varying degrees of success and presentation, this one probably was one of the first that I've seen that was a Jewish exorcism, not involving a priest but a rabbi (Matisyahu) instead, with certain rites performed I'm sure didn't had much of an authentic ring to it (I may be wrong). And to make things a little laughable, there was a scene where Clyde thought he could do it alone through the learning of the rites on Vimeo (wonder how much they had to pay to displace YouTube), before seeking professional help.
But the unforgivable element in the film, is the editing. For all the good work that was done in the film, with the actors trying their best to flesh out a relatively flimsy storyline, everything got let down by the poor, poor editing. This probably came from having 2 editors in Eric Beason and Anders Villadsen handle the film, so one can only speculate on the clash of ideas. Ultimately it really reflected their weak editing skills and the limited scope of their abilities, making almost every transition here a fade to black, probably the only technique they can both agree on. This irritates since it's so frequently used, especially at the beginning of the film, and made it all worst when it was used so carelessly in the gripping finale, totally spoiling the mood and threw a spanner in the works. It's really choppy work, got in the way and drew attention to itself, so it was bewildering why the filmmakers had let this pass, rather than to fire them both and get someone else instead.