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Inside THE POSSESSION with Screenwriters Juliet Snowden & Stiles White

Writing THE POSSESSION, the Sam Raimi-produced horror film by Juliet Snowden & Stiles White. Learn how THE POSSESSION went from script to screen

Sep 1, 2012


SWSCA instructors (Writing Creatures) and screenwriters Juliet Snowden & Stiles White have a new movie premiering this weekend.  THE POSSESSION.  Produced by Sam Raimi and directed by Ole Bornedal, THE POSSESSION tells the story of a young girl who buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl's father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.

We caught up with Juliet and Stiles and talked to them about the unique and frightening entity that's at the heart of the movie.

-Matt Winston



by Juliet Snowden & Stiles White

Dibbuk (Eng. dib-uhk) noun. from Jewish folklore. 
A malicious or malevolent possessing spirit.  An abbreviation of dibbuk me-ru'aḥ ra'ah ("a cleavage of an evil spirit").

The project started with an article in The Los Angeles Times back in 2004.  There was a story about a man who bought an antique wooden box at a yard sale.  The woman selling the various items said that the box had belonged to her grandmother, who had dubbed the cabinet a 'dibbuk box' and warned her kids 'never to open it.'  Not only that, the grandmother had instructed the family that when she died, she was to be buried with the box -- and for various reasons, that request was not granted.

So, this guy buys the box and immediately weird things start happening in his life.  A whole series of unexplained phenomena: disembodied voices in the house, lights smashing and breaking without cause, sudden illnesses, intense nightmares of an ancient hag attacking the man in his sleep.

The man realizes that all these events started as soon as the box came into his life.  He sells it on eBay, and now weird phenomena starts happening all over again to the new owner.  That person also sells it, a third owner now gets it and guess what?  The phenomena keeps happening.

Sam Raimi's company Ghost House Pictures got the rights to the story and that's where we came onto the project.  We thought it was a great real-life idea for a horror movie, that an object could be haunted or cursed.  And wherever the box goes... the evil follows.

We wanted to keep as many true elements and aspects of the horrific phenomena from the actual story.  The real dibbuk box has Hebrew carvings on the outside and has a Jewish history behind it, and we wanted to stay true to all of that.  Inside the box the new owner found various personal 'tokens'; a couple of old coins, a small candle holder, lockets of hair.  Furthermore, he found traces of wax drippings on the outside of the box, as if it had been used for some kind of ritual.  Was the box built to somehow contain a dibbuk?  That's what we wanted to explore.

In terms of how to show a possession phenomena escalating and happening to the younger daughter in the story, we used the very definition of 'dibbuk' to help us come up with something unique.  This idea that the dibbuk spirit 'cleaves' to a human host is very scary.  Like a parasite, it's hiding in plain sight.  The tagline in the trailer says it all: 'Darkness lives inside.'  Throughout the movie, we reveal horrific glimpses that suggest something evil is literally inside this girl.  We wanted to come up with some seriously twisted ideas that expressed our take on a possession.  In fact, the first teaser poster that was released for the movie really embraces this idea and takes that imagery to an 11.

If people are interested, check out THE POSSESSION Facebook page for more on the mythology and beliefs about dibbuks.

Dare a peek at the official trailer.

And here's the original newspaper article that started it all.

We hope everyone has a chance to check out THE POSSESSION!

-Juliet Snowden & Stiles White