Film review: ‘Possessor’

Brandon Cronenberg’s “Possessor” is the perfect skin-crawling feature to kick off October.


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Young woman in the cinema, watching a scary movie, hiding her look with a hand and holding a box with popcorn

By Jacob Baker

Writer and director Brandon Cronenberg, son of legendary horror icon David Cronenberg who paved the way for the grotesque body horror genre, follows closely in his father’s footsteps. However, he independently roars onto the horror scene with his new science fiction horror film “Possessor” released Oct 2. 

“Possessor” follows Tasya Vos, played by Andrea Riseborough, a corporate agent who uses brain-implant technologies to inhabit other people’s bodies to carry high-level assassinations. Vos’ next job tasks her with invading Colin Tate’s body, played by Christopher Abbott. Vos’ mission is to get close enough to Tate’s future wife and her family to assassinate them and take over her family company. 

“Possessor” takes all of David’s strengths and lays the groundwork for a promising career that’s ahead of him. “Possessor” is unnerving, disturbing, graphic, wildly creative and the film wields a daunting atmosphere. 

The Cronenberg name is so tightly associated with the body horror genre and rightfully so. “Possessor” delivers the gory goods but it’s the creativity through Brandon’s writing and terrifying direction that make the film a 2020 standout. 

The premise of an undercover agency abducting people so they can inhabit their bodies and commit high-level assassinations is such a wild, unique concept and yet so brilliant at the same time. That strength in writing never ceases as both the unique characteristics of the world and the themes of “Possessor” are layered thoroughly to its very ending. 

One of the most effective aspects of “Possessor” is the type of horror Brandon sought to accomplish with disorienting splicing of bloody murder and body horror into the character’s minds. Vos struggles mightily throughout her time in Tate’s body as glimpses of past assassinations and their gory nature constantly plague her mind as well as the subdued Tate’s mind. 

At the center of it all is the two outstanding lead performances from Riseborough and Abbott. Riseborough displays such desolation in her somber performance despite most of the screen time focused on Riseborough’s character controlling Abbott’s character. Abbott, on the other hand, is just cutting edge in every scene he’s in. His performance is great throughout but one of the films smallest moments where Vos has to recalibrate Tate’s mind and Tate is basically using a dial to run through all of his emotions is freaky and awesome. 

“Possessor” proves there’s something special that comes with the Cronenberg family name. “Possessor” is horrifying and bizarre in all the right ways with excellent gore, originality from the writing and direction, and two lead performances that knock it out of the park. “Possessor” is the perfect skin-crawling feature to kick off October.