I think it’s pretty clear nowadays that it’s never a good idea to play with a Ouija board. Film after film has taught us at least two things about the sinister game: Never play with a talking board by yourself, and never go to production with a weak script. Which brings us to Juan Frausto’s Possession Diaries.
Possession Diaries’ Synopsis
Possession Diaries tells the story of Rebecca Clarkson (Katherine Munroe: Blood Bath 2014), a young girl suffering from increasingly malicious attacks on her mind and her physical self. In order to fight back in an attempt to preserve her sanity, she decides to document the activities that are plaguing her by recording a video diary with the use of her computer and posting the segments online.
Juan Frausto’s (Once Upon A Time In The Hood 2004) film starts off with the usual slow build expected of this genre film. Something makes a noise. “Did you hear that?” Fade to black. In the next scene, something moves. “Oh, my God! Did you see that?” Fade to black. Rinse repeat.
Unfortunately, the film gets stuck on this drain-circling and frankly tiring loop. When an exit strategy is required to move the plot along, the filmmakers toss in a slightly over the top scenario such as Rebecca unknowingly attempting to stab her boyfriend, Dante, played by Johnny Ortiz (Ice Box 2018) due to her being possessed, only to watch herself committing the act on video playback minutes later. Yet she never changes how she goes about dealing with her situation.
The film does attempt to bring some originality to the story line with a few dream sequences, showing what it would feel like being the host to a possessing entity, which was a nice touch. I can honestly say that it is a point of view I wish other possession genre films would explore in more detail.
The frustration that Possession Diaries brings is that they explore some interesting ideas that are put into sequences but are never really tied together. Characters seem to just show up and it’s later played off as if it were planned all along. Their stories may have been left on the cutting room floor, or the screenwriter assumed we knew more than we did. Who knows.
I understand that Munroe’s character, Rebecca, suffers from blackouts due to her possession, but the audience isn’t her character. This film isn’t meant to only show her POV. Therefore, the sudden appearance of the priest Father Brian (James Russo: Django Unchained 2012), in the third act comes across confusing at best. There is no real lead up to it and what could have been an element of a deeper plot point is squandered.
Possession Diaries suffers from the problem of two steps forward and two steps back. As soon as the story moves ahead in any way, it is just brought right back to where it was before. This adds to the frustration and aforementioned sense of drain circling where the pace becomes stagnant, which is never a good thing when making a film.
The acting is hit or miss, which is another confusing element, as most of the cast are seasoned professionals all with impressive filmographies. Katherine Munroe holds most of the screen time, carrying the film as best she can with the script and direction she has to work with. I can tell from certain scenes that she has some serious acting chops, but was left uncomfortable and awkward, trying to make the best of what she could do with such a lackluster script.
It seems, in more than one instance, that only one take of a scene was being filmed, and the director just used whatever he ended up with. This was mostly apparent where characters seemed to flub their lines, yet the scene just carried on. I’m not sure if this was due to budget constraints or other factors, but it was quite noticeable and distracting.
A film is a difficult thing to make. There are challenges that arise well before the first foot has even stepped on set. This is why a solid script should be the first thing that is locked down. With all the constraints that come with independent filmmaking, the story is the backbone that tells if a film will sink or swim, and this allows for other shortcomings to be overlooked.
However, Possession Diaries had quality production values with some great practical makeup, decent cinematography, professional lighting and sound design. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to save the production from serious plot shortcomings that made the idea for this film a missed opportunity.
This one fell flat for me, but I look forward to seeing more projects to come from the individual cast and crew involved.