Possessor ★★★★★

Tasya Vos, an agent played by Andrea Riseborough, works as an assassin for a business espionage company that uses brain implant technology to allow her to inhabit the bodies of unwitting people in order to accomplish her grisly missions. Our antihero heroine, however, is so skilled as a "possessor" of other human beings that her multiple jobs have caused the lines of her own reality to blur. When she commences her latest assignment by taking over the mind of a low level worker, played by Christopher Abbott, in order to kill the CEO of a data mining corporation, her ensuing loss of identity leads to horrific results.

If the wince-inducing violence and disfigurements in the 2020 science fiction thriller, Possessor, seem uncannily familiar, then this is likely because director Brandon Cronenberg is the son of David Cronenberg, the esteemed filmmaker behind blood-drenched classics like Scanners (1981) and Videodrome (1983), and because he has fully mastered his father's "Once you see it, you cannot unsee it." brand of body horror. This young auteur is no mere clone, though, and, with the help of cinematographer Karim Hussain, he pulls several surprises out of his own sleeve with this highly unsettling work that is unafraid to delve into gender-mixing sexual dynamics, with an eye for visceral mayhem that recalls the standouts of Italian giallo cinema helmed by the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava.

The spirit of paranoia-fueled 1970s conspiracy movies is present here in full force, making this the most distinctly "2020” film that I have watched all year. One sequence depicting the day-to-day duties of Abbott's character, as he views webcam footage of countless computer users to pinpoint specific household products in the background, may scare contemporary viewers even more than the no-holds-barred stabbings and gunshots that populate the story with a manic gleefulness. More importantly, the aura of identity crisis speaks to all of us who have watched with revulsion as friends and acquaintances have acted supposedly out of character in response to the tragic intrusion of the COVID-19 pandemic into our lives.

Possessor is not a pleasant film, but its tremendously haunting aftertaste elevates it to a timely greatness.

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