Brandon Cronenberg’s newest feature, Possessor, fuses science fiction and horror to create an unsettling and enthralling meditation on greed and control. You can feel the influence of David Cronenberg’s features on his son’s work in both form and foundation, and Possessor is all the better for it.
The film follows Andrea Riseborough as Tasya Vos, a corporate assassin who inhabits other peoples’ minds via brain implants and then uses their bodies to commit murder. While she’s very skilled at her job, a bleed-through effect has put a strain on her personal life and causes her to see quick flashes of intensely violent imagery even when she isn’t on the job.
Things truly begin to unravel when she takes over the body of Colin (Christopher Abbott) to complete a job that involves murdering his fiancé (Tuppence Middleton) and her father (Sean Bean) so her company’s client can take his place as CEO.
Of Two Minds
The mind-melding where Vos takes over Colin’s body is the most visually inventive sequence of the film, as bodies liquefy and fade into one another, propelled along by screams and the film’s moody synth score. It’s a phantasmagoria of color and sound, unsettling and untethered, but it perfectly encapsulates the sensation of having two consciousnesses battle it out for control of one body.
Unfortunately for Vos, the transference is flawed, and she is soon having trouble maintaining control of her new shell. This leads to a series of violent encounters that carry the film through to its endpoint.
A Flair for Gore
For a movie that functions as an operatic mood piece dancing around the issues of individuality and free will, when it leans into its more bloody sequences Possessor manages to be tangible and visceral in a way that can make viewers squirm.
Cronenberg exhibits a flair for unsettling imagery that is on par with his father’s body horror-infused oeuvre. (There’s a torture/murder sequence where a man’s teeth are mangled and twisted around in his mouth that will haunt me for a long, long time.)
These gorier sequences, as well as the film’s more abstract storytelling beats, have a tendency to hijack the narrative and put its thematic concerns on the back burner, but they also make Possessor utterly transfixing.
Ultimately the film’s thematic message becomes somewhat muddled by its storytelling, but most viewers won’t notice or mind if they do.
This is a mood piece: a sharp and inventive techno-thriller that rises above most modern films and manages to mesmerize and shock throughout its runtime. I’m recommending it, provided you don’t mind the occasional bloodbath.
Possessor is currently in theaters and will be released on digital platforms November 3 and DVD/Blu-ray December 7.