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“The Possession of Michael King” Is a Worthy Addition to the Found Footage Genre

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.

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"So, God or the devil, if you're out there, prove it. Come and get me."

— "The Possession of Michael King," 2014

After his wife, Samantha (Cara Pifko), dies in a freak accident, Michael (Shane Johnson) becomes obsessed with debunking the psychic whose advice he believes contributed to her demise. However, as his investigation into the paranormal deepens Michael realizes that he has awakened a malevolent force beyond his control. Soon he is struggling to maintain his sanity as well as to protect those he loves—his daughter in particular—from the darkness overtaking him. While The Possession of Michael King exhibits many of the cliches common in films featuring demonic possession, the movie’s sympathetic protagonist and realistic portrayal of occult practices render it a worthy addition to the found footage genre.

Unless you’re as soulless as the demon summoned by our reckless protagonist, it's difficult not to sympathize with Michael. For despite his insistence that organized religion and other spiritual practices are nothing more than a way for charlatans and con artists to exploit the vulnerable, Michael is desperate to learn otherwise. Though claiming he wants to expose psychics and mediums as frauds, he is really searching for something, anything, to prove that some part of his wife remains, that there is more to Samantha’s existence than fading memories and a headstone.

And Michael’s love for his daughter, Ellie (Ella Anderson), is undeniable—even though it’s equally obvious that his supernatural investigation isn’t in the girl’s best interest. As his sister (Julie McNiven) points out, Michael needs to focus on being there for Ellie in the wake of her mother’s death—not fool around with the demon summoning kit he ordered online (yes, really). Still, despite this lapse in judgement it’s clear Michael would do anything for his daughter, even lay down his life for her (hint hint).

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Besides, we’ve all lost people close to us and in my case, at least, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine doing almost anything to hear their voices or see their faces one more time. That being said, there are only so many allowances we can make for someone with a child to care for, no matter how grief stricken he might be. Michael has the right to ruin his own life but involving his daughter in such a dangerous situation is another matter entirely. Remember how I said that all he has left of his wife are memories and a tombstone? Well, that’s not entirely true. Ellie is a beautiful reminder of the love and life Michael and Samantha shared. It’s a shame her father is too absorbed in his pursuit of the paranormal to remember that. Instead, rather than concentrating on the living Michael allows himself to become consumed by the dead—with dire consequences.

As someone whose only exposure to alternative religious practices comes from Hollywood, I was intrigued by the film’s depiction of rituals ranging from Satanic rituals to necromancy. In the words of director David Jung, many of the ceremonies Michael performs are close to "real methods of summoning spirits and demons”. (Not sure how decorating yourself with teeth is supposed to attract the dead—unless you’re summoning the ghost of a dentist—but then again, I’m no witch doctor.) Their effectiveness aside, I enjoyed exploring less conventional approaches to the supernatural. This may sound strange, but I believe there is always something to be learned from such practices (besides communing with the dead). Often, that lesson is something as simple as acknowledging the diversity of human thought and beliefs.

However, even if summoning spirits is possible, I believe that the dead should stay dead. Honoring their memory is one thing but chasing after someone who is truly unattainable brings only pain and suffering. Just ask Michael.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 India LaPalme

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