‘I temporarily suspended the host,’ is a good sample of the kind of deadpan techno-babble dialogue you should expect from an out-there elevated-genre piece like Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, an outlandish, ridiculous, uber-glam, frequently utterly repellent sci-fi thriller that’s designed to keep you on edge for hours before it returns to haunt your dreams. David Cronenberg’s 70’s and 80’s output generated plenty of shock and awe from censors, tabloids and audiences back in the day, and son Brandon is a chip off the old block if that block happens to be constructed from razor-blades, crushed body parts and malformed alien genitalia.
Possessor is probably better experienced then written about, and it takes a bit of legwork to decipher what you’ve seen; I’ll do the heavy lifting for you. Andrea Riseborough plays assassin Tasya Vos, who gets inside/possesses her victims and commits murders which benefits her sinister, unknown sponsors, represented by retired possessor Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Vos is enlisted to get inside the head of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), who is romantically involved with Ava (Tuppence Middleton), the daughter of sinister data-mining CEO John Parse (Sean Bean). Vos has a mission to kill Parse, but things don’t go to plan and soon Vos and Tate are fighting for control of the same body.
In a way, there’s something retro and seductive about a film so firmly resolved to provide a shock to the system; leaving aside the bursts of graphic, semi-hardcore sex, the violence in this film is truly unpleasant to behold. Possessor is an ordeal to watch, steamrollering through various taboos including violence towards children; if you don’t like seeing people put live guns in their mouths, then you’ll want to skip more than a handful of scenes here. But this isn’t empty headed nihilism; the acting is good, the look is hypnotic, and there’s a modern story about voyeurism and personal privacy that’s worth decoding.
Possessor is a slippery film to nail down; it’s almost unwatchable due to extreme look-away-now gore, and yet it’s also enjoyable as a pulpy, if ludicrous sci-fi thriller. It’s certainly a challenge at a time when few films dare, and will be adored by those with the stomach for it; those of a delicate disposition should steer clear. With all trigger-warnings attached, this is an auspicious second film, and should preface greater things to come from the Cronenberg brand.
Thanks to Signature for access to this film.
Signature Entertainment presents Possessor on Digital HD 1 February and Blu-ray and DVD 8 February 2021