Possessed is a new release on Netflix, coming from Malaysia. The film begins with a student (in a dorm) at his desk complaining about the lack of wifi when suddenly he feels something creeping up behind him. He looks back to notice a shadowy silhouette growling. When light shines on the silhouette, we get a look at the subject of this film. The Possessed, or "Rasuk," are essentially zombies but with worse practical and special effects.
The film takes place over the course of a semester break in a hostel; most of the students have left for home, but some have had to stay behind. At the same time, rumors about a mass possession in a nearby village circulate. Our protagonist is a teacher at the institution who has returned to take care of the students who’ve stayed back. On the other hand, we have a group of youngsters having fun by a stream; one of them discovers a bottle of supernatural origin that, upon opening, makes him hear weird things. The film revolves around what happens next as this group returns to the hostel with a possessed student, and all hell breaks loose when he escapes.
The film, much like previous Indonesian and Malaysian films I’ve reviewed, has to do a lot with the supernatural. Minor spoilers: For example, Wari becoming possessed. He transforms into a squealing zombie-like creature. His eyeballs are black, and his face has a white texture (with bad makeup). When he bites and eats another student, for example, he has to perform a ritual on the student to make him possessive too, but it isn’t clear if that was a special case to show that they are capable of doing that or if they have to do that for transforming. The zombie rules are unexplained and disparate from conventional zombies. It differs from zombies in that the victim does not become a mindless brain eater but rather a ritually performing demon. They are afraid of lights, can communicate with other zombies, and don’t bite already-bitten victims? Yeah, it is confusing.
There are a lot of supposed jump scares, but the zombie creatures aren’t that scary because the makeup and CGI make their reality noticeable. The way they sound and flail (not run, yes, flail) is also kind of comical sometimes. It isn’t that bad either and certainly doesn’t hinder too much of the experience because, when they are in close encounters with other characters, they do manage to give a scare.
The director (James Lee) is a huge fan of dynamic movement; there are fewer scenes where he keeps the shots static and fixed. I think this was done to make it feel like the film has a sense of tension and uneasiness but instead just comes across as noticeable yet devoid of purpose. Most guerrilla filmmaking or even films on a low budget make good use of hand-held shots, but the ones here don’t necessarily feel great.
This is another example of a very generic film that has nothing special to add to the formula of an average or even sub-par zombie thriller. The ending is again very cliche, with a hint of a twist that will probably never be revealed. The big problem with supernatural flicks like this is that they don’t feel grounded in reality, even if their setting is, and that makes it hard to get involved in the world of the film. It makes it difficult to empathize with the characters. After the credits roll, there's not much to think about other than how the film gave you an unsettling hour and a half of generic zombie demons. I’d say avoid this one if you’re not into grotesque zombie stuff.
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