“Any loss of identity prompts people to seek reassurance and rediscovery of themselves by testing, and even by violence. Today, the electric revolution, the wired planet, and the information environment involve everybody in everybody to the point of individual extinction.” – Marshall McLuhan
From the mind of a Cronenberg is to suggest that everything from that point forward is to be examined and questioned while trying to maintain a safe distance. Chances are if a film emerges from the mind of a Cronenberg nothing about that film will fall within a preordained set of so-called rules. Odds are it will test the parameters of what is or is not acceptable by breaking the very rules set to contain a story to a simple three act story. For years, David Cronenberg has taken us to places far and wide from mafia gripped Russia to front row at the literal deterioration of a man who pushed science entirely too far. Now, in 2020, it’s his son’s turn to shock and awe; Brandon Cronenberg brings us, Possessor.
If you can discuss the influence of father to son I think the first thing that catches your attention, in the case of Possessor, is the almost love affair with gratuitous violence. So much so that Cronenberg Sr. is widely considered a master of a subgenre of horror known as body horror. His son Brandon seems to have caught the same preoccupation, fully throwing his audience head first into some truly horrific moments meant to create unease but often done so with a message behind it all. It doesn’t happen often but from time to time a film like Possessor comes along and tests my own limits of what I’m prepared to sit through. By that I mean just how much gore, how much brutality can one person absorb before they begin to feel out of sorts?
So far, in my vast experience of watching more movies than I could ever hope to count, only one film has ever forced me to press stop and never return to it and that is an infamous film known as Cannibal Holocaust. The animal cruelty piled on top of a great effort to create horrific scenes of ultra realistic violence and torture without any real purpose beyond shocking the audience by saying, “Look what I did! Look how gross!” never felt worthwhile. I’ve never experienced a more pointless film in my life. And I’ve seen Grown Ups 2.
Now with films like Possessor the violence is unbelievably grotesque and almost offensive but there is never a moment where these things occur without an underlying reason for showcasing something so upsetting. In the case of this particular body horror/sci-fi/thriller hybrid the violence is a tool for the audience to question the main character and their involvement in such barbarism. How could this person ever do these things? What has to happen to an individual for them to disconnect from reality so powerfully and one would assume, so permanently?
To (pretend to?) love and commit such acts has to require a psychopathic personality. And then more questions come about such as can someone like the main character, played shatteringly uncoupled by Andrea Riseborough, actually show true emotion without any kind of expected return either through similar action or something considered to be equal. To love unconditionally is to remove one’s ego and consider another before yourself. Can an assassin do such a thing is the question Possessor tries to answer however ambiguous it tries to come across.
Possessor is a psychological torment with the focus on one individual trying to maintain a professional/private life balance in a business where one foot in, one foot out simply won’t do. And for Tasya, her employers specialize in corporate espionage, often (always) involving murder. So to approach such a life without true conviction is a dangerous endeavor. Her employers become intent on “correcting” her way of thinking once and for all. How she responds is nothing short of insanity and by the end it becomes clear she never had far to go.
Think Inception if Nolan went for a hard R rating where instead of dream invading it’s literal body invasion replete with horrific bouts of unmitigated bodily harm. It’s like the early days of Inception before they created all the rules starting with not killing the targets, something Possessor has no issue doing.
Possessor is a violent tale that is jarring but it also attempts at violating the sanctity of self reflection and introspection by jumping in there, within the minds of its characters, a place so private it’s a form of disturbance all its own. As literal flesh tears and explodes, the minds of our two main characters are torn apart from within just as mercilessly and without any regard for anyone around them who might befall such a fate. It can be a lot to take but if you’re okay with such viciousness then Possessor is a damn entertaining, highly disturbing piece of horror that never fails to live up to the hype.
An R rated version and Unrated version exist: strong bloody disturbing violence, strong sexual content, some graphic nudity, language and brief drug use
Runtime: 103 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directed By: Brandon Cronenberg
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Currently available for rental on multiple streaming services.
Check out the trailer below:
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