Brandon Cronenberg, (yes, David Cronenberg’s son), got noticed with his 2012 debut feature Antiviral. Now eight years later he’s back with his second film Possessor, about a body-jumping assassin and the problems that arise when she tries to take over the wrong consciousness.
Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough, Mandy) is an assassin in the near future. She can hijack a common brain implant to take over people’s minds and use them to carry out her assignments. We see get a look at this in the film’s opening minutes as she jacks into a woman’s brain and brutally stabs a man to death. She also has an ex-husband Michael (Rossif Sutherland, Hellions, Trench 11), and a son, Ira (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot). She claims she wants to reunite with them, But she also can’t bring herself to leave her job and do it.
Things go badly off the rails when Tasya’s boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Annihilation, Amityville: The Awakening) gives her her next assignment. Take over the body of Colin (Christopher Abbott, Piercing, It Comes At Night). He’s involved with Ava (Tuppence Middleton, Disappearance at Clifton Hill, Downton Abbey). Her father John (Sean Bean, Equilibrium, Soldiers of Fortune) is the owner of a company whose stepson intends to take over in a most hostile fashion. The problems begin when Colin’s mind turns out to be strong enough to fight back. And his capacity for violence is a match for hers as well.
In Possessor Cronenberg takes his father’s ideas and extends them into the future. A future where corporations, including those like Scanners’ ConSec, have taken over. The result is a mix of body horror and corporate dystopia. One where lives are literally something to be bought and sold.
And in the midst of this Possessor creates a very human conflict. A literal battle of wills as Tasya and Colin fight for control of Colin’s body. The portrayal of much of this falls on Abbott’s shoulders as he has to portray his character and his character being controlled by Tasya. Sometimes both in the same scene. He deserves a lot of credit for carrying much of the film’s second half.
Riseborough does an equally solid job during the first half of Possessor. The problem though is, as much as Possessor wants you to care about Tasya, it’s near impossible to. This is a woman who won’t stop killing. Who, when given a pistol to do a job still steals a kitchen knife and hacks her target to death. She chose her career path and it’s hard to care that it has had a bad effect on her life and her sanity.
Which brings us to another similarity between Brandon and his father. Neither is afraid to depict intensely brutal and gory violence. The kind that makes a lot on people squirm. And it’s not just the murders either. There’s some gruesome imagery used to depict the struggle between the two leads as well. Not that that’s a bad thing, just be prepared.
A bloody, nihilistic slice of near-future horror, Possessor marks Brandon Cronenberg as someone to watch. Neon will release it theatrically in the US and Well Go USA has the home video rights. Elevation will release it in Canada. You can check the film’s Facebook page for announcements of when.