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The Rizen: Possession Movie Review

Written by Ilan Sheady

Released by Lost Eye Films

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Written and directed by Matt Mitchell
2019, 90 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Sci-Fi London World Premiere on 22nd May 2019

Harriet Madeley as Grace
Kevin Leslie as Steve
Tony Mardon as Blind Creature
Connor Williams as Matthews
Peter Meyer as Scientist


Computer game horror movies have a mediocre history at best. The Resident Evil and Silent Hill film franchise certainly have their moments, but they have a serious issue when it comes to maintaining any integrity to their lore and their personality. Meanwhile, films like Doom and House of the Dead are no more than a tensionless barrage of bullets; littering the ground with noisy but empty promises.

You would be correct in pointing out that Matt Mitchell’s The Rizen: Possession is not a horror game adaptation but it does feel like it’s going out of its way to emulate one.

A group of post-graduate-aged youths (apparently these are called ‘urban explorers’) break into an abandoned British military bunker for shits and giggles. A secret organisation lead by an ominous ‘suited woman’ (Sally Phillips - Bridget Jones’ Diary) jumps into action and sends a private military unit to stop them from discovering a government secret that must never be released.

The explorers consist of Becca the photographer (Clarice Burton), Maddie the artist (Sophie Miller-Sheen), Steve the historian (Kevin Leslie), Adam the moron (Marcus Bronzy) and his sensitive sister Grace (Harriet Madeley).

During their explorations Becca gets attacked by a spider, her hand gets cut and her blood drips on the floor; a ghost manifests ominously out of view of the group. You’d be wise to think that any one of these things could have been the catalyst to the events that unfold but none of them are. These are just things that happen.

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Once Grace starts getting mysterious visions that make little sense you realise that she’s the playable character for whom you can purchase leadership skills and can open tightly shut doors by tapping x rapidly on your gamer pad.

Our experienced military team follows closely behind consisting of the tough Sergeant Davies (Michael Fatogun), lieutenant Johnson (James Barnes), Bell the lady officer (Sarine Sofair - Game of Thrones), Taylor the angry one (Lewis Saunderson) and Matthews (Connor Williams) the dumb one. Their personalities are completely redundant, though, as they become little more than walking flashlights for illuminating the pitch black scenery and firing wildly at the the bandage faced creatures hiding within. Just imagine Silent Hill nurses without the weirdly sexy elements.

In fact everything that happens in Possession is something you’ve seen done a million times before in much better movies with better fleshed out characters and better designed monsters. As a viewer you even try to help the film by assuming they are going to introduce a twist based on glaring plot holes and that everything so far is merely a subversion of expectation. Whatever you think is going to happen is way better than what the film attempts. Everything except for that ending. You won’t expect that.

Expectations for The Rizen: Possession were, unfortunately, high. The standard for British military horrors was established back in 2002 in Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers with a perfect blend of believable humour and fleshed out troops. What we actually have with Possession is an uninspiring story of unlikable soldiers searching for unlikable civilians being attacked by undefined anomalies around a poorly lit location.

It’s not until the third act that The Rizen: Possession shows any signs of an identity, but even then it’s not until the VERY end that you even realise what the stakes are. Rather than have a surprise reward for your attention it is instead merely a promise for what will come in the third part of this trilogy should Possession receive slightly more than a lukewarm reception. Frankly speaking it doesn’t earn that.

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Having the first two and a half acts playing as a by-the-numbers supernatural action movie only to throw an epic scale scenario at the end doesn’t elevate everything that came before.

A lot of films can get away with this kind of misdirection but Possession has an insincerity behind it that makes me feel cheated and the film feel disingenuous. The strongest evidence of this is in its biggest selling point: the inclusion of several beloved British comedians/actors who appear in the trailer.

Of particular note is Adrian Edmondson (Bottom, The Young Ones) who is front-and-centre in the movie's trailer only, to have been a manipulative use of flashback to the original The Rizen (2017) by editing new characters into previous footage. Similarly Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing) makes an extremely short cameo that I can’t help but feel is repeated use of previously recorded footage.

At this point it should be clear that I went into The Risen: Possession without being aware that it’s a sequel. There’s a strong case for feeling a film should stand firmly on its own as a form of entertainment, however for the sake of offering a balanced review I chose to watch the original afterwards. Had I seen them in the correct order then a lot of scenes and nuances would have made more sense and the absence of a crowbar becomes all the more purposeful, however the flip side would have been any major revelations in the third act of Possession had already been used almost in their entirety.

Knowing now of both films I feel Possession is better considered a remake than an insulting sequel that not only adds nothing new but cannibalises its previous movie and uses Adrian Edmondson to do it.

Despite whether it’s ethical or not, if you haven’t seen The Rizen (2017) and you find enjoyment watching cookie cutter action horrors then there are certainly things to enjoy, in particular the great use of sound design, fantastically authentic location (created by filming at an actual secret nuclear bunker) and that ending that promises more in the future.


Movie: 2 Star Rating Cover
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