Possessor

Possessor ★★★★

I had high expectations for this, what with it being one of the most hyped-up releases of 2020 and also a body horror from the son of David Cronenberg - and it's safe to say that I was not left disappointed. Possessor, at the core, is a brilliant and tightly-wound sci-fi thriller filled with sociopolitical commentary and interpersonal drama, but the strongest moments are bold, experiential, experimental, and utterly unique.

I haven't seen Antiviral (Brandon Cronenberg's debut feature), so I wasn't really sure exactly what sort of vibe he'd be going for, but I found myself blown away by the strength of his directorial vision here. In following a story (and protagonist) that jumps not only between different minds and perspectives, but also different planes of existence, plenty of room is afforded for mind-blowing visuals and unknowable horror. There's definitely something in the DNA of this film which recalls the work of the director's father; the existential questioning and exploration of identity as well as the body horror and utterly brutal moments of gore.

Andrea Riseborough's central performance excellently captures the inner turmoil that her character (and subsequently, the viewer) feels, with Christopher Abbott also delivering the nuanced goods in what must have been a difficult role. With a great supporting cast, another wonderful score from Jim Williams, and editing often employed to a nightmarish effect, Possessor is a technically masterful piece on most levels. Towards the end, the plot does become a little difficult to keep up with, but it levels off with the final scene - and will leave you thinking about it all for hours after the credits roll.

My only complaint might be that some scenes are so viscerally powerful (the fire iron, Colin's mask, the initial "possession") that the rest of the film almost pales in comparison... but then, even the quietest moments are rich in one way or another. I love how the "real-world" themes are handled, too; the commentary on how commitment to a career can destroy someone pyschologically, or the specific attacks on data-mining and our 21st century surveillance state. It all feels pertinent and urgent, but never particularly over-bearing.

This is definitely my favourite film of 2020 thus far, and one which I think I'll be revisiting soon. Again, it's amazing to see so many strong new voices in horror emerging recently - and it's even cooler that, in this case, you can hear the familiar tones of a certain Cronenberg Snr echoing throughout.

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