Reviewed by Chris Hammond
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction
Production companies: Rhombus Media, Rook Films
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director/screenwriter: Brandon Cronenberg
Producers: Niv Fichman, Fraser Ash, Kevin Krikst, Andy Starke
Director of photography: Karim Hussain
Production designer: Rupert Lazarus
Costume designer: Aline Gilmore
Editor: Matthew Hannam
Composer: Jim Williams
Casting directors: Pam Dixon, Deirdre Bowen
Runtime: 103 minutes
Release date: October 9, 2020
Brandon Cronenberg films to this point can draw many parallels between his famous fathers’s (David Cronenberg) films as they are ultra-stylistic, violent and very engaging. Brandon, whose latest film Possessor and second feature really mirrors countless elements from his father’s filmography (the film could actually pass as a Davis Cronenberg film despite a handful of nuances (such as amping up atmospheric tension, and really creating an engaging world upon the celluloid (no matter how disturbing and dark).
Possessor (Brandon’s second feature film) dances haphazardly through many different familiar genre tools like mind control, ramped up gore, and engaging anti-heroes, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all, especially considering this is just the second film of what one hopes is a long career of making audiences queasy with excitement.
The film really shines when fresh-faced leads Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott struggle for control on one man’s body in a tour du gore that will leave a lasting impression. It was also a real pleasure to see Jennifer Jason Leigh dawn the screen in a supporting but vital role.
Possessor is so much more than just a violent science fiction film, peeling away the layers reveals a film that asks who we are and can you really know one’s self.
The film starts off with a bang and although is slows a little throughout the tension never lets up until the credits roll. Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is introduced to the audience laying on a gurney in a room with a large low tech mechanical abomination covering her face. She comes alive and gets ill when “jacking out” of the mysterious machine. Girder (Leigh) who is Vos’s elder guide through this remote control mercenary machine of corporate greed. Little be none to her, Tasya is being groomed to replace Girder.
Although Tasya has skills and taken to job and shown a great fortitude for how taxing body jumping can be, she takes a little bit of each mission with her, which not only affects her own being, but also leads her to have violent memories and urges which she struggles to fully contain. After returning home after her latest mission she has a very hard time connecting with her son and ex, who want her to be more present (they also have no idea what she does for a living at her job). Uncomfortable with this home situation, Tasya is up for a new mission, but will she return fully or completely? The next body she inhabits is Colin (Abbott), who has many of his own issues. His girlfriend’s father as played expertly by Sean Bean is CEO of a company these mindbenders are looking to acquire.
With a three day window to accomplish her next mission (before her body and brain will suffer damage), she must kill father (Bean), Girlfriend (Tuppence Middleton) and Colin (Abbott). Things start off bumpy as Tasya finds a difficulty trying mimic her inhabitant’s mannerisms, even at one point having his girlfriend asking “What has gotten into you”. Work isn’t much better for an already out of body Tasya, as Colin’s job entails wearing a VR head gear and doing market research by spying through people’s personal webcams (his job this day was logging people’s curtains).
The FX sequences that follow truly need to be seen by one’s own eyes. Tasya Melts away like a wax candle and rebuilds herself as her inhabitant Colin in one scene, begging the question, who is she really or is she losing herself. The battle for control of Colin’s body ensues with many ultra-violent outcomes.
Possessor hits perfectly on many levels such as acting, FX and an engaging horror/Science fiction film. It gets a little muddy when it comes to staying on track and not trying to include too many elements of those aforementioned genres. A word of warning, the ultra-realistic gore and violence in the film pulls no punches. Cronenberg does not shy away when it comes to this, which may leave some viewers feeling very uneasy.
I also have to mention in closing that the film is scored expertly by composer Jim Williams, his musical queues add so much to ramping up tension and anguish throughout the film and really hit one high marks for this.