Possessor ★★★★½

Existenz, Upgrade, and Inception all mixing in a biotech pot. Brandon Cronenberg takes the essence of his father’s existential body horror to a more subdued but no less grisly place.

In the stark near-future of Possessor, a company contracts out mind-controlling assassins, using implants to inhabit the minds of civilian hosts and use them as murderous puppets. Andrea Riseborough (“Mandy”’s Mandy) plays top operative Vos, a woman whose chameleonic skillset, mental state, and family life are starting to existentially clash. That fragile self leads to her current assignment spiraling out of control in very Cronenbergian fashion.

Some pacing dips and contrivances aside, Possessor is a blood-drenched descent down a rabbit hole of brain hacking, capitalistic cruelty, and identity slippage. Eruptions of gory violence disturb through their lingering savagery rather than warping flesh. Whereas David would actualize shattered consciousness through similarly broken bodies, Brandon keeps the sloughing internal: a mind torn asunder, the warped pieces worming to the surface in a flicker of the face, a disobedient hand. Riseborough and Christopher Abbot as her host fuse, refract, bleed through mentally, clash externally in sequences of expressionistic psychic violence. Their dueling dual performances ground the sci-fi psychological horror in intimate emotion, confusion, and fear. Possessor’s mental strife crescendoes in a recalibrating finale that’s crimson and cold in equal measure.

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