Mainely Movies’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Sometimes that’s all it takes to lose control.”
Expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes they can lead to disappointment, while other times they can lead to pleasant surprise. And still other times, they can result in something completely unanticipated. Possessor falls squarely into that third category for me. As is always the case when I watch a screener, I avoided any and all information about this movie before seeing it. I knew the name, I had seen the poster, and I knew who directed it. But even with that small amount of information, I had built expectations for this movie in my mind – almost none of which actually came to fruition. I was expecting a demon-centric body horror film, but what I got was a bloody sci-fi movie that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I saw the screener back in early September.
Possessor has got a really cool concept. It’s certainly reminiscent of things we’ve seen before, but the actual way things work and play out in this movie are very unique. Although it’s being marketed as a horror movie (and certainly has horror aspects to it), this is first and foremost science fiction. It’s sort of a futuristic tech-based thriller with arthouse roots and huge splashes of body horror. Literally. But it’s one of those sci-fi movies where everything has this gritty lived-in feel to it, so even though the technology is fictional, it still feels like it could be real in the near future.
And that plausibility is part of what makes this concept so interesting. The idea that people could be targeted and have their bodies essentially hijacked is both scary and compelling. The possibilities are kind of endless in that type of situation and when the process is something that can be commissioned like in this film, it quickly takes on the most nefarious applications. And again, this whole idea could have seemed so far-fetched that it would have lost some of its impact, but it’s presented to us really well. It never gets too technical or really tries to explain how it works, but it doesn’t leave us completely in the dark either, showing us different parts of the procedure and letting us individually put it together in a way that makes sense to us.
So, while the possession process comes together in a way that we can fairly easily comprehend, the same can’t necessarily be said of the movie in its entirety. This is definitely a strange movie that requires that you stay engaged and think a little. The plot itself isn’t too hard to follow once you get past the opening ten minutes or so. In fact, the first half is pretty straightforward and explanatory. The second half does get a bit out there at times, but once you realize you’re watching a fight for control, the plot makes sense.
What does get a bit confusing and more cerebral though, is the point it’s trying to make. Or, more likely, points. You could take this movie at face value, but those arthouse roots I mentioned a while back do force you to view it with a loftier perspective. It presents a lot of very interesting ideas about working for large corporations, about perception of control, and even about self-identity. Even though people in this film literally are not themselves because of the sci-fi elements, this movie draws attention to all of the things that could influence your identity – your job, your family, advertisers and big companies. So, it makes the point of questioning whether you are really you anymore or if you’ve been controlled or influenced by the things around you.
So, the story concept and themes are all extremely important, but with a film directed by someone with the last name Cronenberg, I’d be remiss not to mention the gore. So, this movie was directed by Brandon Cronenberg who is the son of David Cronenberg, the godfather of body horror movies. And that familial linkage can certainly be seen in Possessor. Amidst the sci-fi and arthouse esotericism, this movie is viciously violent. It’s extraordinarily bloody and has some moments of body horror that makes you cringe and squirm in your seat. Now, this visceral horror isn’t constant, but when it does happen, it happens and happens for longer than is comfortable. The screener I saw was an unrated version, so I don’t know if the official release is going to be rated and dialed back a bit, but this movie is sure to satisfy any gore fans.