Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral), the film is a stylish sci-fi trek that dips into thriller and psychological horror for an immersive journey that leaves the viewer breathless and confused.
The film’s synopsis: “POSSESSOR is an arresting sci-fi thriller about elite, corporate assassin Tasya Vos. Using brain-implant technology, Vos takes control of other people’s bodies to execute high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.”
There’s so much happening in this film that it feels like an insurmountable task to unpack it all. It touches on race, gender, corporate greed, exploitation, and intrusive surveillance. The question of the individual versus the corporate entity play on a personal level and “Big Brother” is always watching.
Mindbending Entertainment With Impressive Acting
The film feels like a mixture between Inception and Get Out, particularly in the beginning when Vos (a white woman) is inside a Black woman named Holly. After completing her assignment; stabbing her target despite being provided with a gun, she requests to be pulled out but is unable to shoot herself. This isn’t a problem since she is in a Black woman’s body and, when the police arrive, they execute her quickly. The issue of not only race but how we perceive people of differing races is never fully answered but it is briefly explored in this scene and later. Girder (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), Vos’s boss, asks her why she stabbed her target despite having a gun and Vos say’s it seemed more in character to which Girder queries “Whose character?”
Actress Andrea Riseborough as Vos brings a fragility that is unexpected for a paid assassin. She was one of the few gems in the 2020 remake of The Grudge. Riseborough’s humanity is such that it barely registers that she is a hired killer, despite the graphicness of the kills. She exudes a pained detachment as she constantly spirals in and out of other people’s minds and bodies.
Colors Are Drenched and Muted
The colors are a mixture of bright for some scenes, then muted for others as though we, the viewers, are also seeing everything through a colored lens rather than objects in particular colors. This raises the tension and uncertainty for the audience alongside Vos especially when she enters Colin’s (played by Christopher Abbott) mind. The stakes on this assignment are high as the plan is to kill a CEO (played by Sean Bean) so the corporation she works for can gain control of the company while a dead Colin can take the fall.
The discomfort isn’t eased in the slightest throughout the film as the sound effects and music bring an ever-increasing dread. It’s exacerbated by the similarities between Colin and Vos’ lives. They work for big corporations and mine info for corporate gain, and inevitably corporate is the only victor. We can relate to that zombified disconnect when we do a job that brings no joy simply for monetary gain or career advancement. It eventually leeches every vital aspect from us leaving us walking around in a state of disassociation that spills over into familial connections, diminishing our ability to interact. In a sense, we, like them, feel unmade.
Memorable Body Horror
As far as the horror, Brandon Cronenberg shines when it comes to scenes of violence and body horror. It, like the rest of the film, is uncomfortable without denigrating to cringe or shock value grotesquery. Still, it may be too much at times for some as we all have varying levels of tolerance. The fact that data mining like Colin’s job is already here, and Vos’ job seem realistically possible in the near future—if it’s not here already—is an indictment on not technology per se, but how it is used in damaging ways.
If an artistically crafted, sci-fi thriller dealing with technology, humanity with body horror elements is your favorite, you may love this film. It’s definitely worth a watch and multiple viewings is recommended as there’s a lot here.
Feature photo Cr. EF NEON