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Posted 23rd May 2009 at 07:05 AM by Sam@Cult Labs
Updated 23rd June 2010 at 12:19 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

From the Annals of DVDisgo (RIP) and DVDresurrections


Another film caught up in the UK's draconian Video Nasty clampdown of the early ‘80s, Possession is in fact more of an extreme art house movie than the exploitative hard gore horror films it was lumped in with on the Department of Public Prosecutions banned list.

First of all, a word of caution - viewers expecting bloody thrills and the kind of sick laughs they might enjoy with other, ex-Nasties on the list be warned, this is a headache inducing, confusing piece of artful body horror that involves more SHOUTING than any film I have seen before. It would make a good companion piece to Tetsuo: the Iron Man, as both share themes of bodily disintegration, spiraling sexual depravity and escalating madness along with a frantic pace and motion-sickness camera work. That said, those two films together would make for a grueling night’s entertainment, if you could call it that...

The film tells the story of a troubled couple, played by Isabelle Adjani (who starred in Herzog's excellent remake of Nosferatu) and Jurassic Park's Sam Neill. Their relationship is breaking down and fast moving beyond repair. She is having an affair with a camp German weirdo but, it later transpires that she is also shacked up with a shape-shifting alien life form and she's willing to kill anyone who gets close enough to find out.

The level of insanity in this film really can't be underestimated. A large chunk of the film is spent not on gory set pieces, though there are plenty of those, but on the equally horrific screaming matches between the couple, which lead to physical fights and unpleasant self-mutilation. What's worse is that the couple has a child who is stuck in the middle of all this horror, watching a pair of mentally fractured parents ripping psychological chunks out of each other.

Isabelle Adjani won a Gong at the Cannes film festival for her performance in this film, which, though in danger of spilling over into pantomime during some of the more outrageous sequences of verbal assault, always stays reined in. An extended five minute miscarriage scene in a subway tunnel, in which she screams and throws herself around as if possessed until eventually collapsing into a pool of milk-like liquid and blood that pours from her body, is a little hard to take but remarkable nevertheless. It truly is one of the weirdest and most extreme moments in cinema.

It's just so typical of the UK that a well considered and thoughtful, if confusing, work of art should be lumped together with Nazi shockers or Zombie gut munchers and banned. Yes, it's not everyone's cup of tea but it's a far cry from Cannibal Ferox, etc. I'm not saying that any of these movies should have received any kind of ban but when Beast In Heat, a film about Third Reich rape and mutilation made purely for kicks, is placed alongside this movie the intention of the directors become very clear. One is an exercise in pure exploitation and is entertaining on its own twisted terms. The other is a genuine attempt to provoke thought...a piece of real art. It demonstrates just how ignorant of cinema the powers that be were in the early ‘80s (Have they improved?).

If you are in the mood to be freaked out and can get into the highly stylized performance and script, there is a lot to love in this weird movie. Gore fans can fast forward through all the meaningful stuff for some nasty stabbings and a repulsive alien/human sex scene, which is pivotal to the neat twist ending.
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  1. Old Comment
    Black Gloves's Avatar
    I bought this when Anchor Bay brought it out as a double disc set with Mario Bava's "Shock". It works really well in a double bill with Lar von Trier's "Antichrist"! Spellbinding performance by Adjani; I certainly wouldn't go down into the subway with her!
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    Posted 23rd March 2010 at 03:39 PM by Black Gloves Black Gloves is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Don't forget the SHOUTING!

    I love this movie and it's a great example of how clueless the censors were during the early 80s.

    Amazing that a tabloid scare could expand to take in what is essentially an extreme arthouse movie.

    That was the thing about video, it released underground movies from a middle class cinema club ghetto and gave them to any working class prole with enough redundancy money left to hire a toploader from Radio Rentals.

    Seems to me that it was fine when such movies were the preserve of film buffs who 'understood', scarier for our moral guardians when the plebs got their hands on them.

    This is what I love about new media technologies, the first people to take advantage are always the pornographers and exploiters. It's only when these technologies go overground that legislators suddenly get nervous.

    When photography was introduced, it didn't take long for shutterbugs to start snapping Parisian whores for the enjoyment of respectable gentleman. Yes, those pioneers of the plain brown envelope.

    So when video sprang up and the major studios were slow to adopt the technology, the little guys moved in and the easiest way to turn a buck was to distribute stroke movies and exploitation flicks.

    Several kneejerk TV reports featuring fibbing children quoting erroneous film titles later and Claire Rayer's on the box lambasting "Killer Driller". Suddenly the adult population needs protecting from our innate urge to go on extended rape rampages.

    Funny really...
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    Posted 23rd March 2010 at 11:34 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
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