The inspiration for the new horror-suspense movie The Possession came from an unlikely place: eBay.
In 2004, a Missouri college student listed on eBay a ''haunted Jewish white cabinet box'' he bought at a yard sale that had brought him nothing but bad luck, including his mother's stroke soon after she received it as a gift from him, and his own hair falling out. Filmmaker Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) was intrigued and teamed up with husband-and-wife writing team Stiles White and Juliet Snowden to use that basic premise to produce the film, directed by Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch).
In The Possession, estranged couple Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) suspect their youngest daughter Em (Natasha Calis) is being targeted by a dislocated spirit released from a ''dybbuk box'', an antique box she bought at a yard sale. Clyde becomes convinced an exorcism is the only thing that can end the curse and save her. ''We thought it would be a cool family dynamic to explore what this box was going to do to this family in the backdrop of going through a divorce,'' White says. ''So we were focusing as much on the family as we were on the horror that brought them together.''
Morgan admits he was a sceptic before taking on this role. ''I found out the dybbuk box has been around for hundreds of years in Jewish culture and the director sent me videos of exorcisms that scared the crap out of me,'' he says. ''Some weird things also happened on set and I walked away a bit less of a sceptic.''
Pushed to elaborate, he says: ''I've been on movies for a long time and I've never seen so many light bulbs explode in the middle of key scenes, or suddenly a gust of wind coming from nowhere with the doors closed would blow over the props. After we wrapped filming,'' he continues, ''the dybbuk box was put in storage in Vancouver and a week later the storage unit was burnt to the ground, and nobody could explain what happened.''
The real dybbuk box, White and Snowden say, is still in Missouri and owned by a man who keeps it buried underground. ''He Facebooked us when we got the job and asked us if we wanted to have the box while we were writing and I said, 'Hell no,''' Snowden says with a laugh. ''Even Sam Raimi said no, which proves you can be a sceptic all you want but when someone contacts you and asks if you want the actual box, you become a believer really fast.''
GENRE Horror suspense.
CRITICAL BUZZ Known cast and producer, decent US box-office numbers and ''real-life'' tag should attract plenty of attention.
CAST Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
DIRECTOR Ole Bornedal.
RELEASE October (unset).