Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean, Tuppence Middleton
…offers up a cerebral cocktail flavoured with a decent amount of graphic sex and violence, that entertains as much as it disturbs.
There was once a Canadian director by the name of David Cronenberg. The bloke knocked out some of the most interesting, cerebral, body horror-infused sci-fi horror flicks of all time. The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986), Naked Lunch (1991), and Existenz (1999) to name just a handful. Sadly, ol’ mate hasn’t made a flick since 2014’s patchy Map to the Stars, but it seems a new contender to the crown has stepped up in the form of Dave’s own spawn, Brandon Cronenberg. And this particular icy, unsettling apple has not fallen far from the glistening, biomechanical tree.
Possessor tells the tale of Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), a kind of contract assassin whose consciousness is placed in the body of another person, letting her control them like a meat puppet to execute the hit. After each contract is completed, Tasya has a debrief with her boss, Girder (Jennifer Jason Lee), where she identifies an assortment of objects and explains their significance, to make sure that her core personality and sanity remain intact. It’s a fascinating premise for a film, and feels very much of Cronenberg senior’s oeuvre, particularly the second half of Videodrome. That’s not to say Brandon is aping his old man’s style whole cloth, but there’s certainly an element of homage at play here.
Andrea Riseborough (Death of Stalin, Mandy) is an utterly compelling lead. Is she doing possessor work out of necessity or does she genuinely enjoy the killing? This question hangs over most of the film, and as her behaviour becomes increasingly cruel and abstract, heady themes of empathy and identity are explored. Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night, Piercing) also does very solid work as Colin Tate, Tasya’s latest possessee, who seems to have within him the ability to fight back. However, the star of the show here is Brandon Cronenberg’s assured, stylish direction. While less focused on body horror than you might expect for a film of this type, Possessor’s dissection of the self, and the nature of individuality, offers up a cerebral cocktail flavoured with a decent amount of graphic sex and violence, that entertains as much as it disturbs.
Possessor is a well shot slice of sci-fi horror that is all too rare at the cinema these days. While certainly influenced by his father, Brandon Cronenberg makes the subject matter his own and delivers a film that is both visceral and thoughtful, with an uncompromising, chilling tone. And while David Cronenberg appears to have given up the directing caper, it’s pleasing to see the 2.0 version very much bringing the goods. Dare we say it: long live the new flesh.
Deleted scenes are included exclusively on the blu-ray disc:
• heightened world: The look of Possessor
• Identity crisis: Bringing Possessor to life
• The joy of practical: The effects of Possessor.
• Short film by Brandon Cronenberg.