Possessor ★★½

I was originally desperately trying to NOT compare Brandon Cronenberg to his dad, but I'm pretty sure he wants to be compared to his dad, because this and Antiviral really feel like immaculate, humorless and emotionally cold reactions to early David Cronenberg. In fact, fuck it, I'm gonna just compere Possessor to Videodrome a bunch, even if the analogy isn't entirely fair. This is my dumb letterboxd account, not Sight and Sound Magazine.

I love Videodrome because of its (occasionally excessive) philosophical pondering, its weird art direction, its gross out effects, its horniness, its surrealness – all things Possessor has. But it's also an interesting filmmaker grappling with ideas of violence and censorship in media and doing it in an excessively personal manner. It's sarcastic, but also passionate. Its characters have distinctive personalities. It has a point of view.

I don't understand what Cronenjunior is trying to do here. I'm kind of shocked by how uncompelling I found these characters and how ultimately boilerplate the plot is, despite being dressed up in high concept trappings. I was waiting for a theme outside of "being a mind-stealing assassin is a drag" and met with "technology is sure invasive, huh?," eventually followed by a wishy-washy version of Videodrome's ironic conclusions about media consumption. I think the most passionate cue I got from the whole thing is that Brandon might actually resent his dad a bit? Sean Bean is definitely supposed to be his dad, right?

And I think that this lack of heavy-handed Cronensenior-like theming magnifies issues with the storytelling, namely how ill-prepared this psyops team seems to be for, like, every eventuality already covered in every undercover cop/assassin movie. Videodrome's characters sometimes have abstract goals and motivations, but the things they do constantly and very openly reinforce an interesting and, again, personal theme. Every dumb choice here seems to be in the name of making a miserable character more miserable.

I like the surreal touches and gore a lot. The sense of paranoia works well enough that I really, really wish I'd been keyed into the drama. I'm trying to turn this into an intellectual argument, but the more I think about it, the more it feels like a taste issue.