Based on the true accounts of Australian ‘accidental exorcist’ Mark Gardener. The Possessed is a horror thriller film with an Aussie flair.
Possession/exorcism films are practically a genre in their own right. With so many available, it really helps when a film does something to stand out from the pack. In the case of The Possessed, for me, it is how unabashedly Australian the film is.
The film follows ‘accidental exorcist’ Jacob Chandler (John Jarratt), an average bloke with an incredible gift. Over years he has forged a career pulling evil spirits from clients as one would pull a rotten tooth. Along with his nephew Liam (Lincoln Lewis), the two have seen a sharp increase in the frequency and intensity of these ‘clearing’ sessions.
Separately, Liam‘s new girlfriend Atalie (Lauren Grimson) happens to be someone with a supernatural gift of her own. Luckily, Jacob is able to take her under his wing and show her the ropes. This happens just in time for what will turn out to be the most terrifying house call that Jacob has ever made.
Fans of writer/director Chris Sun should be excited here. Having worked with worldwide cult film favourite actors such as Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, and Nathan Jones and releasing Boar (2017) and Charlie’s Farm (2014), Sun has already established himself in the Aussie horror film market. Here, Sun reunites with the psychopathic Mick Taylor himself, John Jarrett.
Jarratt who has proved himself a versatile character actor over the years, largely carries, The Possessed. In the past even when playing psychos and scumbags there was still some endearing charisma at work. Likewise, here the appeal of his performance comes from the actor’s own likeability transferred to the screen.
I really enjoyed the portrayal of an exorcist in such a way I hadn’t seen before. Rather than the old priest/young priest cliché we’ve seen before, Jacob is nothing of the sort. Based on Mark Gardener, he is just a regular bloke who found himself pulled into this line of work. I liked that he doesn’t dress up in a uniform or even in his Sunday best while performing his task. His method of extracting the evil into himself and then purging it is fascinating.
Some of Jarrett‘s mannerisms and his methods do come off as him hamming it up to 11. However, the end credits feature footage of the real Gardener performing the exorcisms in similar ways. I can only say that Jacob looks just as authentically ridiculous as the real guy.
Other characters throughout the film serve their purpose well, with several clearly having a great time with their over-the-top possession scenes. This film’s comedy relief comes courtesy of the character Orion played by Jade Kevin Foster, a flamboyantly gay friend of Atalie.
Unfortunately the exorcisms themselves do look very similar to every other cinematic depiction you’ve seen. Flashing lights, banging doors etc. These events being repetitive is an issue as well. By the point where we see the ‘big’ one, we’ve witnessed several already, lowering the impact. Regardless, there are still some impressive scares and special effects which were my favourite parts of the film, with amazing effects supervised by Steven Boyle. Frequent collaborator of Sun and the Spierig brothers with his impressive credits also including blockbusters such as Matrix, Star Wars, and Hobbit films. Unsurprisingly, this makes the creature designs, make up and gore effects throughout the film a true marvel.
While no masterpiece, The Possessed is an entertaining horror with Aussie flair. Audiences looking for a good time and fans of both Chris Sun and John Jarratt will find much to enjoy here.