Possessor

Written by Nick McCann

95/100

It fills me with joy when filmmakers have kids that go on to do filmmaking of their own. Enter David Cronenberg, the king of body horror! His movies over the years raised as many social and thematic questions as they did drain blood out of people. Now comes his son Brandon, following in his footsteps with something that’s as entertainingly gross as it is thought provoking!

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Possessor moves at a methodical pace, slowly building it’s world when appropriate and taking the viewer on an increasingly crazy trip. It leaves plenty up for interpretation. I’m still going over details in my head as of this writing, but I could see some parallels to topics of invasive technology, identity and others. All while the plot goes in a couple of neat and unexpected directions! Even with some parts that are slower than others, nothing feels unimportant.

With the Cronenberg name also comes the trademark bloodshed. Again, Brandon takes nicely after his father. The violence adds to the story rather than simply exploiting content. That’s great on top of the effects simply looking solid in their disturbing nature. This may be some of the best practical work and make-up I’ve watched all year! It’s composed to a degree that reminded me slightly of the tangibility found in 80’s horror. Whether it be shootings, stabbings or other nasty details in between, there’s genuine creativity and craft on display. It’s plain gnarly.

It’s backed up with a good cast that looks well suited for the world they roam. So good that I can honestly listen to them talk cerebral sci-fi for a good hour! Andrea Riseborough once again shines, with her most strung out emotional state that’s felt even in places where she isn’t on camera. I also gotta give props to Christopher Abbot! That guy I genuinely believed he wasn’t the person he was. At a point, his performance only gets better thereon. Jennifer Jason Leigh should not be ignored either, being a reserved foil to Riseborough. Top it off with a delightfully scummy Sean Bean and you really don’t have a weak link on screen. They have strong dialog and interesting characters to take their time with for excellent results.

Cinematography looks incredible, with particularly interesting uses of dead space and PLENTY of psychedelic colors. This combined with the editing gives off a mood that’s intense on a subconscious level. It’s about the ideal joining of Inception and Scanners, in the weirdest and best way I can put it. Just as it should, everything on screen is reflecting the subsurface hectic feeling in the plot. All of it strung along with the menacing drone of the score that had my heart pounding a bit.

This is strange. Possessor is an arthouse horror movie that I actually mostly get and enjoy! It asks many questions and succeeds in following through on its varied concepts. Equally entertaining in it’s shocking bits of carnage as it is ponderous about the bigger picture. Most won’t get it or be really turned on by it, but I’m jiving good with it. It’s a thinking man’s blood fest. 

Highly Recommended.

Possessor is part of the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 line up.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

Possessor

Written by Alina Faulds

45/100

Possessor is the latest film from Brandon Cronenberg, another attempt to live up to his father’s legendary status in the industry. On one hand, he succeeds, the sci-fi body horror is just what one would expect from a Cronenberg flick, on the other hand, Possessor doesn’t live up to its hype often losing itself in its poor pacing and fails to properly convey a message. Possessor is violent, arthouse, graphic, and just plain weird. Plenty of people are going to love it for these reasons and will actually take something from the film, but it won’t do much for the average movie watcher.

A highpoint of Possessor is its opening as Cronenberg throws the viewer straight into the film wasting no time on exposition. Holly (Gabrielle Graham) begins stabbing a random man before putting a gun into her own mouth while screaming “Get me out!” Next Holly is dead and Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) wakes up in her own body, lying in some sort of machine. The sequence is chaotic and whiplash-inducing, and full of a lot more blood than necessary. A perfect set-up for what the audience should expect out of Possessor.

Instead of ghosts and demons, it’s Tasya that’s the “Possessor.” An assassin working for a mysterious organization, they use the aforementioned machines to take over random people’s bodies, using them as pawns in their missions to assassinate too-rich targets. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character supervises the twisted science experiment but not much else is explained. When Tasya comes out of the machine she is given objects to trigger her own memories and remind her who she is. Tasya is struggling in her job, while she’s supposed to be cold and calculating, she begins to struggle as she thinks about her own family, she’s beginning to feel empathy for the people whose bodies she’s stealing. This comes to a head when she possesses Colin’s body (Christopher Abbott), the two battling against each other for control.

Possessor definitely has a compelling storyline but the pacing loses itself especially in the middle of the film. It gets rather dull as Tasya in Colin’s body is getting ready to off her next target, needing to prove herself to those in Colin’s life. With a compelling beginning and an incredible ending, unfortunately, Possessor is bookended by two great scenes that make the rest of it a snooze. Where Possessor does excel outside these scenes is in its visuals, especially those when the body’s two souls are fighting for control. With chilling screams and nightmare-inducing faces, the practical effects shine in these sequences, as they do in the killings as well. The acting between Riseborough and Abbott excel in these scenes as well. 

The other problem in Possessor is Cronenberg keeps saying the same thing. Tasya is struggling in her job and especially in Colin’s body, clearly shown in the multiple gross soul-ripping scenes. But Cronenberg never explains why this is the case, just that possessing other people’s bodies is bad. Possessor loses its touch here, getting a little too vague. Again it’s for these reasons why Possessor is such a divisive film, some will love the ambiguousness, trying to find an answer on their own. Others won’t like it, frustrated at the answers Cronenberg refuses to give the audience. 

Possessor is part of the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 line up.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

You can follow Alina Faulds’ Letterboxd, Twitter, or Instagram and view more of her work here.