The Possession of David O'Reilly: Review

The Possession of David O'Reilly
Review by Michael Pickle

The Possession of David O'Reilly is last year's supernatural UK import from directors Andrew Cull and Steve Isles. It's not likely to please every horror fan out there, but it's the kind of horror film that I personally enjoy discovering. A film that's very low budget, but not afraid to take chances. It's not perfect, but it's scary.

With solid acting, a few bare bones, but effective camera tricks, and some special effects make-up; this supernatural thriller is not afraid to be subtle. Nor is it afraid to be straight-forward. It seems to drag in a couple parts, but that even worked well for me and made the scary scenes that much scarier. In a constant state of unease you never know if the next scare is going to creep up on you or jump in your face. Kind of like feeling the hairs stand up on the back of your neck then being smacked upside the head..

Young, attractive British couple, Alex and Kate, are enjoying a quiet night and a movie. They fall asleep on the couch and Alex wakes up at Midnight and playfully teases Kate about her talking in her sleep. He explains that she kept repeating 'don't open it, don't open it'. Just then the door bell rings. A creepy indication of what lies ahead. The person at the door is David O'Reilly.

Alex's friend of over ten years. He caught his girlfriend, Sarah, cheating and he needs a place to stay. Soon the couple discovers that David is haunted in more ways than one. He has suddenly started seeing shadows and disfigured demons everywhere closing in on him threatening his life and his very soul. What follows is a guessing game as to whether these demons are real or just a figment of David's imagination. Whatever they are; they're getting closer and threatening to consume the lives of David and everyone around him.

When I contemplate the things that worked about The Possession of David O'Reilly the first thing that comes to mind is the acting. A film like this would not work and would not be nearly as scary without great acting. Character interactions seem quite natural even when faced with very unnatural circumstances. Alex and Kate are played by relative beginners. TV actor Nicholas Shaw and the stunningly beautiful Zoe Richards. This being the first feature film of Zoe's career.

You would think she was a seasoned veteran by the way she commands a scene and becomes the most pivotal part of the final act. In a smaller, but still memorable role, Francesca Fowler portrays the pregnant, cute-as-a-button neighbor Anna whose few short minutes of screen time are some of the more pertinent of the film. Last, but certainly not least is Giles Alderson in the lead role as the tormented David O'Reilly. His performance is so convincing that's it's almost over the top. I say that because his character is in an almost constant state of sheer terror throughout the duration of the film. It may seem over the top at times, but it felt very authentic to me. Performances like this make me feel like I'm watching how a person would really react when faced with such horrors.

I mentioned in the beginning of this review that this film is not for everyone. I say that because of the pacing and the chances that are taken that you don't often see in an extremely low budget horror film. The pacing is deliberate and it's done that way for character development. The chances that are taken are sometimes distracting, but ultimately add layers to the film to make it feel different from much of the indie horror films out there. Things like switching POV's in which we are suddenly experiencing the action through the eyes of one of the characters. This can get confusing, but oddly, the confusion is one of the things that made it work for me. Especially when David dozes off at random times because of sleep deprivation. We are looking through his eyes when he wakes up in an entirely different part of the house because he's sleepwalking. I didn't know what the hell was going on at first, but when I realized it I was pretty impressed. Off-putting scenes such as this is what makes it stand apart from the norm, but some people will just be put off.

The part of the film that I was probably most impressed with was the way the characters are filmed while moving around through the dark. When David storms through the house with a knife demanding that all the lights be shut off so he can spot the creatures we get up close and personal with the characters and it's pretty damn exciting. The brilliant sound design with just the right mixture of subtle musical score and strategically placed sound effects make these scenes almost maddening. We are with them as they feel their way through the darkness and we, like them, can only see a few inches in front of their face. The couple think they see things, but can't be sure. They think they hear things, but can't be sure. All they know is David is running around their house like a madman so they don't know whether to join David and try to ward off his creatures or run the hell away from him for being bat-shit crazy.

The Possession of David O'Reilly is a nice, creepy, exciting little British horror film. It's not changing the face of horror, but it sure is a good film to watch late at night with all the lights out. There are some slight similarities to Paranormal Activity and some of the shots seem Blair Witch inspired, but overall it is pretty original. Even if indie British horror is not your cup of tea; there is enough here to satisfy. If you have an appetite for a demonic, cerebral mind trip of a midnight movie.

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