The premise of the Possessor looks simple on paper, but the way that Brandon Cronenberg tells it is anything but.
The Possessor uses the battle of two people over one psyche to deliver a trippy and thought-provoking techno-thriller.
The audience is subjected to a mindfuck where cinematography, practical effects, and film score assault your senses. Cronenberg uses harsh neon lighting, prosthetics, and imagery with grotesque yet effective results. The demarcation between the two psyches has a physical aspect that makes for engrossing body horror and inventive psychodrama.
It’s never clear as to whose finger is on the trigger.
This is a movie where violent penetrations are done both on the mind and in the body. Vos is given a gun but she feels that it’s more in-character to use a steak knife or a fireplace poker to do the job. The violence is captured in a matter-fact-way that will make you squirm.
At the same time, the movie also poses questions about agency and free will. If a worm got inside of you, how do you know if your thoughts are from you or the worm? Colin asks this in a deranged state after Vos’s memories bleed into his. It’s a question that also echoes our times.
This movie is set in 2008, where unethical corporations use analog technology. Parse owns a data-mining company where workers peep into people’s webcams to look at their choice of decor. Colin had to stop himself from getting distracted by a couple having sex to know what kind of curtains they have in the room.
Fast forward that 12 years later in the real world, where social media uses your data for advertising and algorithms can warp people’s perception to the advantage of demagogues.
All these efforts are focused on violence and visuals that the script has no room for its characters. It isn’t clear why Vos has a hard time controlling Colin and why a star assassin like her would lead a double life with a family.
There are glimpses of emotional indifference which indicates that the job is taking a toll on Vos. Sadly this is unexplored and the script focuses on Colin instead.
There are great performances all around that the movie stays on track with Cronenberg’s intentions. Riseborough shows that Vos is as much a vehicle for her employers’ ends as the hosts whom she invades to do her job.
The Possessor is about the malleability of identity and it ends with as many horrifying implications as its beginning.
Possessor is a rousing techno-thriller that asks high-minded questions through a human story while giving a brutal jolt of body horror.