POSSESSOR (a.k.a. Possessor Uncut) ***** UK / Canada 2020 Dir: Brandon Cronenberg. 103 mins
Son of David, Brandon Cronenberg, follows up his debut ‘Antiviral’ (2012) with another moody, body horror mind-fuck of the sort that made his father famous. The senior member of the family may have left the genre largely behind him but, like father like son, Brandon is more than willing to take the baton and plunge it, painfully, into the human body.
The film explores a near future concept of being able to remotely control a person though their brain. Andrea Riseborough stars an an expert ‘possessor’ who is able to enter the target’s mind while remaining in a virtual reality environment. She’s an assassin for hire and her boss, (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh ‘eXistenZ’ (1999) sets up Sean Bean’s slimy corporate type as her next target. In order to get to him she takes over his daughter’s boyfriend (Christopher Abbot) but when her own personal life starts creeping in she starts to lose control. The two find their minds intertwined which leads to some unpleasant results.
Dread and apathy hangs over this future society which is as overwhelming as anything Brandon’s father did and also feels akin to the work that Panos Cosmatos ‘Beyond The Black Rainbow’ (2010), ‘Mandy’ (2018). The slow burn approach is punctuated, and often, by bursts of extreme violence that are extremely effective. The purposeful detachment of the characters may be hard for some audiences to engage with but this is a bold and memorable experience. While standing on its own it definitely owes a debt to the early work of his dad, especially the college short films, as well as more familiar titles such as ‘Videodrome’ (1983), ‘Crash’ (1996) and the aforementioned ‘eXistenZ’.
Review by Ben Underwood