Review: Possession (1981)

Possession is an under-appreciated and over-looked horror that also happens to contain one of Sam Neil’s finest performances.

Possession is a little known but incredibly effective horror from Ukrainian director Andrzej Zulawski. Whilst it appealed to the critics of the time it struggled to find a market in the UK and was in fact listed on the DPPs now notorious “video nasties” list. Thankfully common sense has prevailed in recent years and the film has finally found a home release.

It sits uncomfortably in one particular genre as the horror is definitely of the psychological variety, initially coming from the broken relationship between the two lead characters before taking a slightly more generic twist towards the end of the film with some truly disturbing creature effects. However it is the psychological impact of the film that makes it work, as everyone can relate to the situation the characters find themselves in and know how truly unpleasant broken marriages can be.
The visual style of the film is fantastic and evokes a creepy and disturbing atmosphere throughout. Berlin as the setting works superbly well to enhance the mood of the piece as the architecture has a claustrophobic feel to it and you will really feel that the characters are trapped in their situations as well as the city.
Sam Neil gives an intriguing performance, initially seeming to overplay the character but his performance fits the bizarre and uncomfortable tone of the film perfectly. Isabelle Adjani is excellently cast in a dual role that shouldn’t be spoiled here. The less you know about the film the better as Possession is definitely a film that people will take different things from.
Overall it’s an overlooked genre classic that if you haven’t seen you should watch at once. Possession has a lot to offer even to those who aren’t usually drawn to horror… but be warned – it is not an easy watch and is a film that will stay with you long after the initial viewing.

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