Finny!’s review published on Letterboxd:
''Good. You're seeing all the right animals, as they say.''
Even if this wasn't directed by David Cronenberg's son, it would be impossible not to compare this to the man's work. Shades of Scanners, eXistenZ, and even some visuals from Videodrome permeate.
Unfortunately Possessor is neither as beautiful nor as intelligent as even David Cronenberg's lesser films.
This isn't intelligent sci-fi. It's not beautiful filmmaking. It's not even a fun pulpy story.
It's an ugly, self-serious, feature length Black Mirror episode... predictable every step of the way, and desperately trying to be edgy and subversive.
I don't know how many times it needs to be repeated: in the year of our Lord 2020, there is absolutely nothing edgy about sex.
Full frontal nudity is not subversive, and the way this film goes about it just feels like it's trying way too hard to get a reaction.
A naked woman on a bed with her legs spread, with absolutely no in-film context—a shot existing purely to shock the viewer by showing something vaguely pornographic—isn't radical, it just feels like someone devoid of depth trying to feel like a dissident, transgressive filmmaker.
The fact that Brandon Cronenberg thinks an erect penis is in any way shocking or edgy really just speaks to the lack of creativity that pervades the entire film.
Bonus points for the '#Cool' drug taking scenes, and constant use of vapes—with the main character (hilariously) vaping during the film's climax, right before the final confrontation.
Stood outside the building, music rising, we cut to his face, a show of barely restrained anger/hatred, and then he takes a fat rip on his sonic screwdriver; this scene is not played for laughs.
And it isn't even shot well.
The whole film is shot with this ugly-as-sin shallow depth of field, with schizophrenic focus pulling where things just fall out of focus in the middle of a shot—or, even worse, things fall out of focus because the whole film is filmed handheld; the shaky nature of that style making the shallow depth of field barely able to focus on the stuff it's meant to be focusing on.
The answer of but it's to create a sense of unease might be true, but that doesn't make it good. Something having a purpose does not make it a good decision.
Compounding the film's grotesque stylistics is the absolutely hideous shot composotion. The majority of the film is made up of deeply boring off-centre shot-reverse-shot conversational shots, and when it tries anything outside of that we end up with some truly embarrassing attempts at creativity.
The whole thing looks like a hybrid between a Netflix show and a student film.
Also, can we please stop pretending this film has extreme violence? It doesn't.
It has some stabs, some (quickly cut away from) bloody gunshots, and a bit of very light keyhole surgery.
It's bloody, sure, but there seems to be a patent lack of understanding of cinematic violence at play here. Splashing blood about a scene with no visual context for the wounds or the bodily damage being cause is not effective violence, and it's not interesting.
Beyond this, bullets shot in one direction end up impacting walls and people in ways that make no sense. Blood ends up on people and things from wounds that were not spurting blood in that direction.
In his rush to make his film's violence as bloody as possible, Brandon Cronenberg completely abandons any sense of space or tangibile physicality, both of which are essential for effective cinematic violence.
Let's not get into the bland, uncreative montage cutaways—complete with 'creepy' shots of eyes and people screaming.
Or how the film cuts back to the same shot of a stabbed neck a dozen times across its runtime.
If Possessor didn't have the Cronenberg name attached, and was instead released on Netflix by a no name director, everyone would be calling this what it is: a pretty bad sci-fi movie that mostly feels like someone pitched a Black Mirror episode, had it rejected because his showreel wasn't good enough, but his dad had connections so he managed to get a budget to make it anyway.
Possessor is a great concept that's entirely wasted.
It's a film that marries shallow depth of field with a shallow exploration of a halfway interesting—if already covered in other, better media—idea.
Absolutely abysmal in basically every regard.