Usually stories of possession end with the possessed having their demon exorcised from their body, free from their suffering and horror at last. But what happens after? Possessions wreak havoc on both the host and the host’s loved ones and yet we just have to assume that all is rainbows and sunshine once the evil entity has been purged from their unwilling host’s body. For Ava, her story deals with the aftermath of her month long possession, of which she has no real memory.
Ava’s journey runs parallel with recovering drug addicts. In her newly regained control over herself, she’s confronted with the amount of pain she’s inflicted on everyone around her. It begins with the usual suspects; her parents bare their battle wounds, her boyfriend won’t return her calls, and what little friends she has left are openly afraid of her. Yet the damage, she soon finds, isn’t exclusive to those closest to her. Strangers on the street greet her with fear or hostility, and she finds herself in a deep hole of legal trouble from her month of mayhem. Faced with serious jail time or rehab therapy, she opts for the latter and is sentenced to participate in S.P.A., or Spirit Possession Anonymous. Like most recovering addicts, though, Ava learns that she not only needs to make amends, but that she’s not free of her demons. In Ava’s case it’s literal; her demon very much still haunts her, waiting for an opening to regain control.
Using demonic possession as an obvious metaphor for addiction would seem heavy handed, but it’s an interesting approach that works well here largely in part to the unwinding mystery of Ava’s month long memory blackout. Amidst Ava’s wrecked apartment, she finds clues that something rather unsavory went down, but what? No one around her is forthcoming with details. There’s also the matter of just how exactly she wound up possessed in the first place. The result is more of an engaging whodunit and much less horror.
Ava herself seems to have been an entitled brat from a privileged family prior to the possession, but her family’s disinterest despite knowing her plight instantly earns sympathy. It also helps that Louisa Krause deftly handles deadpan wit when delivering much of Ava’s dialogue. Deborah Rush and William Sadler, as Ava’s parents, have limited roles but utilize their extensive acting backgrounds to convey everything we need to know about Ava’s past despite their short screen time.
Where the narrative really stumbles, though, is in its subplots. There are various plot threads meant to illustrate Ava’s emotional arch, such as her friendship with another group therapy member or a budding romance with the son of a potential victim, Ben (Lou Taylor Pucci). The issue is that these subplots venture too far outside of the main mystery and are left dangling. This snowballs into the main mystery’s conclusion feeling rushed. The end result is that Ava’s journey ends too abruptly, and never really reaches a satisfactory conclusion.
Aside from some less than impressive possession makeup, writer/director Jordan Galland’s unique sense of style gives the film an interesting aesthetic that distracts from any budgetary constraints. Never has a possession, or post-possession, film been so colorful. It’s as though Galland attended Dario Argento’s DIY school of supersaturated coloring, resulting in a similar lucid dream effect. To round out the chicness, the film’s music was handled by Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Ava’s Possessions is an honest depiction of addiction recovery beneath an engaging, clever mask. Galland really delves in to the nuances of what it means to face ones inner demons, be it victim blaming or the continued looming threat for relapse, yet makes the truth easier to swallow with a stylish veneer. Recovery, though, is an ongoing process, which makes concluding Ava’s story that much trickier. This is ultimately where the film unravels, with its final act losing so much steam. Despite the flawed outcome, it’s a film worth watching.
Ava’s Possessions is currently available on VOD and iTunes.
Ava’s Possessions [Review]
Despite a weak final act, writer/director Jordan Galland provides an honest examination of addiction recovery by way of demonic possession. It’s both stylish and clever, bolstered by performances of the cast. Though a very engaging mystery whodunit, the film mostly ignores the horror elements.