Possessor review: Should you give up control to see this movie?

Andrea Riseborough from Possessor
Andrea Riseborough from Possessor. Pic credit: Neon

The pandemic might have deterred our abilities to experience the wonders of cinema, but thanks to Brandon Cronenberg (son of David Cronenberg), the modern sci-fi masterpiece Possessor will hit our eyeballs this week.

Much like his father, Brandon Cronenberg has made a high-concept science fiction film that demonstrates how much a director can do with so little. And the practical effects are impressive and absolutely chilling.

Why should you watch Possessor at a theater or when it hits VOD next week? Here is our Possessor review and why it’s definitely worth experiencing.

Possessor review

Possessor stars Andrea Riseborough as Tasya Vos – a wife and mother who works secretly as an agent for an organization that uses a technology to possess the bodies of people. Once the victims are inhabited — through a brain implant — Tasya is able to drive their soul like an automobile to kill for high paying clients. And this allows the agency to take down targets without it leading back to them.

When the film begins, we already have a sense Tasya has been doing this for a while. And her superior Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) — as optimistic as she is about Tasya’s skillsets — has her own reservations about if the possession process (called binding) is causing her to slip, and lose parts of herself because she is so determined to do her job. In spite of being offered a break, Tasya refuses to take one.

But against better judgment, Girder and Taysa push forth into a new assignment with a new body binding with a young man named Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott) in hopes of killing a rich businessman. And needless to say, what should have been an easy job becomes a violent head trip of gigantic proportions.

Mystery person wearing a facial deformity in Possessor
Mystery person wearing a facial deformity in Possessor. Pic credit: Neon

Based on the name and poster, most viewers are probably expecting a horror film or a scary movie. But Possessor is far from being a terrifying film despite its body horror elements. That said, Brandon Cronenberg takes heavy lessons from his father here, combining disturbing concepts and making them visceral and haunting.

There are shots in this film that are unforgettable and brilliantly realized. Once we get into the push and pull of the possessed and the possessor, small touches of sound design and eye-popping cinematography effectively place us inside the headspace of these characters. The result is one of the best depictions of cerebral horror in recent memory.

Those who adore practical effects and miss the golden days of Hollywood where CGI was not so heavily utilized will adore the artistry on display here.

Cronenberg went all-out with certain sequences conveying the possession by using fully formed waxed replicas of the performers and filming them melting in time-lapses. It’s one of the many decisions that any director could have chosen the easy route, but even though it made the filming tougher, chose not to utilize CGI as frequently for the sake of viewing pleasure.

Christopher Abbott from Possessor.
Christopher Abbott from Possessor. Pic credit: Neon

But that’s not where the practicality ends. The violence is also extremely realistic and in Cronenberg fashion, often heavy on the gore. It’s not over-the-top and unnecessary — like some of the Saw sequels — but various sequences will make some flinch and possibly squeamish.

Where Possessor shines, though, is within its story, characters, and performances.

The film surprisingly has a lot to say about depression. Tasya uses her secret life as escapism from a day-to-day boring life of simplicity. She has the option to take a break but she won’t and even the grind makes her increasingly numb.

The same can be said for Colin, who has a job he hates and extended family who does not appreciate him. And by the time Tasya takes hold of him, it’s up for debate on where Colin ends and Tasya begins.

Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott more than rise to the occasion on selling the interchanging dualities. And they both have a lot to work with on the page.

That said, Riseborough is once again the performer who will enthrall viewers – even when she is off-screen. Between Possessor and Mandy, she continues to be an actress who elevates everything she is given. She’s one of the few performers who can act without anyone providing her a single word of dialogue.

Overall Thoughts

Possessor is a modern masterpiece for SciFi, bringing back that classic flavor of cerebral horror within the genre.

There is just so much to love and savor about this movie. Between the strong use of practical and visual effects and its commentary on depression, Possessor was made with lots of care behind it and it absolutely shows in every frame.

Brandon Cronenberg proves he is a visionary with Possessor and he has a hell of a career ahead of him.

If readers like Possessor, check out our other reviews for The Haunting of Bly Manor and Spontaneous.

Possessor will hit select theaters and drive-ins this weekend and premieres on VOD October 16.

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