SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 10: Possession (1981)

I first met Sam Neill on a submarine. While his captain stormed around the boat speaking English with a Scottish accent, Sam wanted only to see Montana. Keeping a nautical theme, we met again as he took his wife sailing only to be accosted by a madman. Next, he was a member of the CIA. Of course, he really came to the forefront as a man fighting for survival against dinosaurs.

But for me, there were really two roles that stuck in my head, and as which I always think of Sam Neill. The first was In The Mouth of Madness and the second was Event Horizon, both of which could easily fit onto a list of horror films to watch during the month of October. Both of which are crazy supernatural films.

Until recently, I was unaware that he’d done crazy supernatural before. 1981’s Possession is just such a film. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Sam plays Mark, who is a spy – but that’s really unimportant – and has just returned home from a secret mission to find out his wife wants to divorce him. Hindsight being what it is, he should have just let her go. Instead, he wants things to work out but decides to give her some space. Oh, and their son. He just kind of walks out and gets a new place for himself. Rather than getting on with his life like he should, he becomes obsessed, calling all the time, and finally going back home to discover everything is a mess and their son is home alone. Mark moves back in to take care of the kid, and Anna moves out. Mark gets a call from Heinrich, Anna’s lover, who says Anna is staying with him. Mark, despite being a spy and having access to other stuff, gets info about Heinrich from one of Anna’s friends, and then Mark meets Helen, his son’s teacher, who is played by the same actress as his wife.

It’s important to notice this, and the movie hits you in the face with it, having Mark freak out a little and bring up that Anna and Helen look so much alike.

So Mark goes to meet Heinrich and learns that Anna isn’t there. In fact, Heinrich has been out of town and didn’t call Mark before. He hasn’t seen Anna in a while. Anna comes home but won’t talk about where she’s living. He beats her and she leaves. Mark, who once again I will point out is a SPY, hires a common private investigator to follow his wife. Then goes home and possibly has sex with Anna’s friend who gave him the info on Heinrich. The next day, Mark and Anna have a fight, Anna cuts her neck with an electric carving knife, he bandages her up and then sits listlessly cutting his own arm with the same electric carving knife. She leaves.

The private investigator follows her to a squalid apartment. He pretends to be the building manager to gain access, and finds some sort of ugly creature in the bathroom. Anna kills him with a broken bottle. Meanwhile, since his wife left Mark has only one option open to him… start dating the woman who looks exactly like his wife, because that’s going to end well. The private investigator’s lover shows up looking for the private investigator. Mark gives him the address for his wife’s new apartment, which the private investigator never gave him, probably because Mark is a SPY and got it himself anyway… did he just get someone killed for no reason? Anyway, the lover goes looking for the P.I. Anna attacks him, he tries to shoot her then she takes his gun and shoots him a bunch, but not before admitting that she’s been having sex with the creature in the bathroom.

Anna comes home again and starts putting food in the bedroom and clothes in the fridge. She admits to Mark that she had a miscarriage and we are treated to a flashback that looks nothing like a miscarriage but instead like someone having a flailing seizure and then bleeding profusely. She doesn’t appear to have seen a doctor.

Heinrich goes to see Anna at her new place. Or rather, Mark calls him and says, “Hey, why don’t you go see my wife?” He does, he sees the creature, she shows him a collection of body parts she has in the fridge, and Anna stabs him but he gets away. Hmm… first the address, now this, maybe Mark isn’t just a spy, maybe he’s an assassin of some sort. Heinrich calls Mark says, “Hey buddy, your wife is messed up and stuff.” Mark goes to the apartment, sees the body parts, then goes to meet Heinrich and murders him. At this point, Heinrich’s mom calls Mark, because for some reason she has the phone number for her son’s lover’s husband, looking for her son, whose body has been found but she’s looking for his soul.

Mark finally catches up to his wife at her apartment, where he watches her has sex with the monster. Let me restate that, Mark walks by the camera and WE watch her have sex with the monster.

Heinrich’s mom comes to visit, poisons herself and dies.

Mark’s employers show up and ask him to do a job. He refuses, runs away and kills a police officer. Then he wrecks his motorcycle and runs into a building where Anna follows him, because she’s there. Anna reveals the creature, which is now “finished”, and it looks exactly like Mark. Then cops shoot them all in a hail of gunfire. Monster-Mark isn’t hurt.

Anna shoots herself with Mark’s gun and dies. Mark jumps to his death in the open stairwell. Monster-Mark escapes.

Later, at home, Helen – the teacher who looks like Anna – is with the son. The doorbell rings and the kid starts repeating “Don’t Open” while running through the apartment and finally diving into a full bathtub. We close in on Helen’s face as she gives us a “What’s going on?” look. In the background you can see Monster-Mark writhing against the glass door. Sirens and plane noises are heard. Light illuminates her eyes.

So… now that that’s over… what the hell did I just see? Is Helen a Monster-Anna? Was the light in her eyes explosions and the kid was actually super smart to dive into the tub for protection? Why was all this even happening? I have no idea! I love it! I will probably never ever EVER watch it again, but I love it!

You might be thinking, “Jason, you totally just spoiled the whole movie!” and you’d be right, but you would also be so very wrong. It really does have to be seen to be believed. However, if you wish to see it, you might have to .. um.. find a copy. If you know what I mean. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Life Between Frames, Money and a Half, nijomu, Creatures of Light and Darkness

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