Two horror movies opening this weekend.
Swap the clerical collars for a yarmulke, change the sacred incantations from Latin to Hebrew, leave out the pea soup and you've got "The Possession" (★ 1/2 stars, rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences), a Jewish version of "The Exorcist." Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a newly divorced dad who buys his daughter Emily (Natasha Calis, pictured) an odd wooden box adorned with Hebrew carvings. Overnight, Emily turns into a Goth girl, taking her fashion tips from the ghost in "The Ring." Danish director Ole Bornedal ("Mimic") manages a few gotchas, some decent jolts. But by the third or fourth time the angelic-looking Calis rolls her eyes in that way the possessed do, she isn't the only one.
ROGER MOORE, MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
Like an animal warfare episode of "Wild Kingdom" but with less character motivation, "The Day" (★ 1/2 stars, rated R for violence and occasional nudity) cycles through bursts of horrific violence only to end much as it begins: static, hollow and vague. An unspecified event a decade earlier has left all of society more or less like "The Hunger Games." There are survivors, a group of five, led by Rick (Dominic Monaghan), who are being hunted, inefficiently, by zombies who live in the woods. Beyond that, there is no why, no where and hardly a how to the action here. Between long stretches of nothingness come scenes that are full of brutality but almost never tension -- the deaths are video-game quick, and just as untheatrical, even in the battle royale that brings the action to a close.
JON CARAMANICA, NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE