I was expecting for this film to scare the crap out of my friends and I since the trailer looked scary enough and also because it was based on a real story. But the trailer was very misleading and the anticipation it evoked was met with a surprisingly sad family drama, not a horror movie. I found myself sad for the father, who was misunderstood half of the time, and pitied the daughter who only wanted her parents to get back together. Had this not been a horror flick, I think it would have done much better because it failed to deliver what a scary movie is supposed to: fear of the unknown ghost/demon that may possibly be lurking beside the viewer.
After a couple of minutes of watching an old lady trying to destroy an old wooden box, but is beaten with an unseen entity, the movie’s main protagonist is Clyde, a somewhat successful basketball coach, is introduced. He is now gathering his things from the home he used to share with his ex-wife, Stephanie. It appears that they have joint custody of their 2 daughters, Emily and Hannah. The horror begins shortly after he brings the children to his new home, in a dark and lonely looking residential area. While they are out, Hannah spots a garage sale and points out to her father that they he needs plates, and so they begin to rummage through the items. Emily finds a medium sized wooden box with strange carvings, and quickly takes interest. Clyde pays for the things his daughters have gathered, and has has unwittingly bought his youngest daughter, Emily, a demon encased box.
We follow the gradual and distinct changes that Emily goes through because of the demon’s influence. She starts talking about an imaginary friend, shows signs of obsessing over the box, and openly states her disapproval with both of her parents. The already shaky relationship Clyde has with his children and ex-wife is further strained, and at one point severed, because of the now demon possessed Emily. Strange and evil things begin to happen at home and at school. Emily’s teacher is killed by the same entity that lives within the box, and Emily begins to consume large amounts of food, and at one time explains that, “she’s still hungry”, referring to the demon that has now found a home within her. With all of these creepy and disturbing scenes, it should have been easy to play with the viewers’ imagination and make this movie an unforgettable one, but as we continued to watch it, I noticed that the focus of the story is not on the demon or on the girl, but on the relationship of the characters. From Clyde’s conversations with Stephanie, we find out that he was an absentee father whose priority was his coaching, which led to their divorce, and that their 2 children could not be more different. Hannah appears to be part of the popular crowd, fixated on dancing and Emily is the quiet, sensitive and sweet one. Of course, knowing the characters like this is supposed to be a good thing, but for me, a horror movie is supposed to make a person feel alone, because this is where fear begins. You’re not supposed to relate to whatever the character is going through and be emotional, unless you’re watching a drama. The fear that translated across the screen was for one’s family member, not for one’s safety. I completely lost the feeling that I was watching a horror movie when Clyde broke down in front of several grown men in a Jewish Temple, upon learning that the demon, Dybukk, would take over and ultimately kill his daughter. Even Matisyahu being part of the cast could not make this film enjoyable and worth watching in the cinema. By the end of the movie, I began to miss my family, instead of thinking what could be hiding in the shadows as I went home.
The effects weren’t bad, but they failed to shock, as one would expect of a horror flick. The scene that I liked, and reminded me what kind of movie it was trying to be, was the part where Emily was checking out her throat in front a mirror, and she suddenly saw fingers reaching out. And when they were scanning her body in the hospital and they saw the figure of the dybbuk literally inside her body. Aside from that, even the occasional scary voice from a little girl wasn’t enough to even surprise us.
The only interesting thing that I got out of this movie, was the jewish demon, dybukk. I had never read or heard of it before so it was pretty cool knowing something new. Although the concept of trapping evil within a certain container is common, it was a good idea. If only they had presented differently, it would have been good.