Juan Frausto’s independent film Possession Diaries clumsily trots out every tired cliched the demonic possession/exorcism subgenres of horror have to offer. After using an Ouija board, Rebecca (Katherine Munroe) begins to feel not quite herself. Researching and looking for help proves fruitless, so Rebecca decides to document her self-diagnosed possession using the webcam attached to her computer. Her roommate Esmy (Stephanie Kaczmarek) goes out of town on Rebecca’s first day of recording, which leaves the young lady alone in her apartment for several days.
Her boyfriend Dante (Johnny Oritz) does swing by from time to time. However, after the demon that is taking over Rebecca’s life forces her to pull a knife on Dante, he stops visiting. For reasons dictated by terrible screenwriting, it is only after a few nightmares fueled, sleepless nights and torturous days that Rebecca calls her Aunt Peggy (Eileen Dietz). Peggy is friends with the psychic Esmeralda (Monica Engesser) and gets the medium to swing by her niece’s place. After the visit, Esmeralda gets Father Brien (James Russo) to help, and the three of them decide an exorcism is in order. Will this ritual rid Rebecca of the evil trying to control her? Will anyone care?
Possession Diaries is a punishing watch in every way. Please don’t take that to mean that it is a successful horror movie, and “punishing” in that icky, gooey way of say The Evil Dead (which is technically about possession). Instead, Possession Diaries is poorly constructed, has massive plot holes, is awkwardly edited, and has the worst acting of any film I have seen so far this year. There is nothing whatsoever to remotely recommend about this atrocity.
“…Rebecca decides to document her self-diagnosed possession using the webcam…”
To start, Katherine Munroe is flat and lifeless as Rebecca. She vacillates between dead-eyed drone, which is boring, to wildly over the top, which is too campy for the tone of the film. Inexplicably, she delivers the best performance of the film. After watching Johnny Oritz as Dante, all I will say is that I hope he doesn’t quit his day job any time soon. I am not sure if Dietz is intentionally meant to come off as clueless or if she’s just that ineffectual in the role. Either way, her brief scenes are the only source of levity throughout the entire 93-minute runtime. Of course, it is entirely unintentional humor, but at least it is something. The rest of the cast does not fare any better.
Of course, if the entire cast is unable to rise to the occasion, then the director clearly was not doing his job correctly. That is evidenced in more than just the cast though. Possession Diaries is awkwardly structured, which creates a handful of holes in its story. Despite the obvious setup, this is not a found footage movie. Roughly half the film is shot from the statically positioned webcam (why the filmmakers did not opt for a phone’s camera- which would offer more mobility, thus a more visually engaging experience- I will never understand). The rest of the movie is told in the traditional, third-person viewpoint.
The issue is that the transition from one style to the other has no apparent rhyme or reason. It is not whenever Rebecca first wakes up, as the worst sequence in the movie proves. Rebecca is having a nightmare wherein she’s in a fog-shrouded forest. Flashes of light, possibly meant to signify lightning but so poorly rendered I am not sure, go off behind her. As she’s wandering around, a dark, blurry figure emerges from the shadows. The special effects during this thankfully brief scene are so god awful as to be laughable.
The nightmare wakes her up, and it is not from the webcam’s viewpoint. Once Rebecca begins her daily vlog, she recaps this horrible dream we just saw. That is because Frausto, who besides directing also co-wrote this dreck with Rich Wealthy, has a nasty habit of explaining to the audience the very last scene that just happened. After Esmeralda’s initial visit, Rebecca takes to the webcam to explain the freaky encounter she just had with the psychic. We just saw this, why is the audience also hearing about it after the fact?
“…come the end of the year, this movie will be in my bottom three.”
A more significant issue in terms of editing and narrative flow happens after that. A specific event and Rebecca believes she is free from the demon. Quick side note, I know I keep referring the supernatural creature as a demon, but it is revealed, comparatively early that is the Devil himself. However, it is much easier to say demonic possession than devil possession. Anyways, she thinks she’s better now and records a diary entry. Rebecca explains that this will be her last one. Immediately after, another vlog starts streaming. Rebecca explains that she just realized her first full day of freedom would be Halloween; which is also her birthday.
In terms of moving the plot and characters along in a seamless fashion, it would make infinitely more sense if that birthday realization and her supposedly final webcam diary were combined into one. Literally, nothing happens between those two scenes, so when the new one starts up, it is jarring and awkward. To be fair to the movie, the whole thing feels disjointed thanks to abysmal editing, so at least that scene isn’t alone.
Let’s be very blunt. Possession Diaries sucks on every level. The directing is terrible, the acting is awkward and cartoony, the score is forgettable, the style of the film does not suit the material, the script packs in cliche after cliche, and then there are several plotholes. I guarantee come the end of the year, and this movie will be in my bottom three.
Possession Diaries (2019) Directed by Juan Frausto. Written by Juan Frausto, Rich Wealthy. Starring Katherine Munroe, Johnny Oritz, Eileen Dietz, Monica Engesser, James Russo, Stephanie Kaczmarek.
0.5 out of 10 Trainwrecks