Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, son of body horror master David Cronenberg, Possessor made waves as the film that would be too extreme to be seen in theaters, and yet, it is being released in its full uncut glory. And while it might not be the gore-fest that one anticipates, it’s an intriguing and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller nevertheless.
The movie follows an assassin who uses technology to control and inhabit other people’s bodies, using them as vessels to commit untraceable hits for high-paying clients. It’s a crazy premise that will undeniably hook a lot of viewers, but Cronenberg doesn’t let his characters run free in this near-future world.
Instead, the film is something much more restrained. By focusing primarily on one mission and only featuring a few (very effective and very brutal) scenes of gory violence, Cronenberg emphasizes the creation of a sense of unease and tension, and he does so successfully, crafting a movie that will drive the audience crazy as the puzzle begins to slowly crumble apart.
The real shortcoming of Cronenberg’s film is that he doesn’t use these unique ideas to say anything particularly original. On one hand, it’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of technology and the lack of anonymity in the digital world, and on the other, it’s a movie about parenthood, and Cronenberg offers little new insight on either of these themes.
There are definitely a lot of layers to Cronenberg’s character work here, and that is the area of the film that would most likely benefit from multiple watches. The dynamic that is created between the protagonist and the character whose body she occupies for most of the movie is fascinating and something that really deserves deeper observation.
The two lead performances in the film from Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott, really go hand-in-hand in making this movie the movie that it is. The way their performances change over the course of the film and complement each other along the way is truly magnificent, especially in a genre that isn’t well-known for fostering nuanced acting.
Obviously, a big part of this movie’s appeal will be the shock value from the extreme gore and explicit sexuality, but it is better when it disturbs in other ways. The sequences of the film which are more surreal, featuring abstract and haunting imagery, are more likely to stick with viewers longer after the credits roll than the gallons of blood spilled.
Possessor is a very interesting movie that will likely divide the genre’s fans. Even though the reports of the amount of gore may have been a tad exaggerated, the acclaim that it has received certainly is not.
Possessor hits theaters on October 2.