A provocative cerebral feast, Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor is a sci-fi/horror hybrid that expertly mixes exceedingly visceral imagery with an equally captivating story. That is to say, this is definitely NOT style over substance.
On the visual front, the film benefits from its stripped-down sleekness. This, of course, is in spite of the movie’s rather large concepts. And even though Possessor’s futuristic world is technologically advanced, it doesn’t make it any less murky, as our young filmmaker keeps the unrefined rawness of human existence very much intact in this future existence.
There’s also something disturbingly beautiful about all the body horror on display here, no doubt a Cronenberg family trademark at this point. While the twisted nightmarish images will make it so you are squirming in your seat (and skin), they’ll surely leave you with a sense of awe in the process. Likewise, the film’s violence also strikes a provocative yet unsettling tone, providing more than a few unflinching instances of blood-spurting beauty.
When it comes to performances, Christopher Abbott perhaps deserves the most praise, as the actor is essentially playing a character within a character. Thanks to some good old-fashioned brain-implantation/physical transference plot elements, Abbot must navigate his way through a tricky portrayal full of internal conflict. So, you know, no easy feat. The always prolific Andrea Riseborough certainly holds her own as well, giving vital believability to the lethal corporate assassin she’s tasked with depicting. It’s the ‘ol “don’t judge a book by its cover” role, and naturally, she nails it!
But, as with most sci-fi outings, it all boils down to the story. And this one, well, is quite a doozy. And sure, while Possessor’s hi-tech body-switching premise is ambitious, it never veers into the territory of over-the-top farcical. It’s as if every fantastical narrative piece has been matched with a more grounded one. And with a healthy measure of mystification, the result is a twisty bit of hypnotic suspense, topped off with a helping of psycho-trauma for good measure.
And just like the films found in his famous father’s filmography, Brandon has cloaked Possessor in some rather intriguing societal commentaries. Amidst the futuristic assassination turmoil, you’ll not only find explorations of technology and the human identity, but also themes surrounding authoritative surveillance and imposter syndrome.
So, no matter what you look for in a psychological thriller and sci-fi horror, chances are Possessor’s daringly bold approach has you covered – and perhaps then some!