Somebody really needs to make Fear and Loathing in Pursuit of the Devil. That movie sounds awesome.

The Possession of Michael King follows its title character (Shane Johnson), a documentary filmmaker, after his wife dies in an accident early in the movie. King decides to search for proof of the divine or the infernal and becomes possessed.

The goal of found-footage haunting movies has always been to distill the experience of being haunted and shoot it directly into the audience through a first-person perspective. In these movies, scary things don’t happen to characters on a screen – they happen directly to you. The Possession of Michael King tries to take it a step further and give the audience a first-person perspective of being possessed. It fails miserably in this task.

The movie starts out with a couple of scenes in which King explores the occult. First he talks to a demonologist couple whom he pays to summon a demon into himself, then he talks to a necromancer who uses his body to commune with a recently diseased person. It would have been a very interesting movie if it had continued on this track as a mockumentary exploring various occult practices — Fear and Loathing in Pursuit of the Devil (King is exposed to some very powerful hallucinogens during these scenes).

But then King starts to become possessed by a demon who matches the description of the one the demonologists were trying to summon, and the whole idea is abandoned for something generic and stupid. The necromancer thread is never really picked up again, begging the question of why it was even shot.

The weird, pointless necromancer (Cullen Douglas) sews a cadaver’s teeth into King’s belly, hoping to make King’s body a more inviting host. This early scene is distinctive and fresh, and represents a track that the rest of the movie really should have followed up on.

The movie tries to convey the entire process King goes through, but in most cases just defaults to King orally describing it to the camera or droll body horror. It’s the most boring possible way to tell the story and a complete waste of the tools available to a film.

The most egregious example is the voices and static King keeps hearing. He is constantly talking about the voices in his head, but the audience never gets to hear them. Toward the end of the movie, he starts doing the talk-to-an-invisible-offscreen-entity gag that’s been done a million times over.

The Possession of Michael King isn’t really boring, but it exhibits all the symptoms of being boring. It feels like a three hour ordeal, but has a run time of just an hour and 23 minutes, at least 10 of which should have been cut out because of the necromancer business.

There’s no sense of danger in the movie. The demon expresses serious interest in raping King’s sister (Cara Pifko) and murdering his small child (Ella Anderson) and has ample time to do these things, but he just… doesn’t. He gets right into position and then stands awkwardly over them making creepy noises and, just, sort of, backs off. Over the course of the movie he kills two people and a dog, but it all happens off-screen. This is a movie where going overboard with gore and senseless violence actually would have been appropriate, but it’s just as much of a wuss as commercial horror shows.

The movie has an outright pathetic lack of originality, even for a big-budget wide release. In movies that have had a lot of money sunk into them, clichés are to some degree understandable and expected – the movie is a money-making enterprise, and the people holding the purse strings want to stick to safe, tried and true tropes that people have paid to see before and will pay to see again. But The Possession of Michael King is being released almost directly to iTunes and other downloadable platforms. Its budget is miniscule. They don’t have to play things safe at all.

It’s an interesting idea and the movie has some pretty effective jump scares, but with very dull execution. Not even slightly recommended.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and news editor for the NT Daily. Do you realize that when those stickers successfully attach to your leg, what’s essentially happened is a blade of grass has jizzed on you? For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at reelentropy@gmail.com. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.

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