The name Cronenberg conjures up images of creeping body horror, twisted psychological pressure, and real nightmare shit. And apparently it’s a familial trait. David Cronenberg delivered classics like Scanners, The Fly, Eastern Promises, and many more, and his son, Brandon Cronenberg, has fully picked up his mantle. And the body horror apple doesn’t fall far from the body horror tree, illustrated to perfection by his sophomore feature, Possessor: Uncut.
The name may be the hook, but Cronenberg certainly isn’t coasting by on that. Sure, it probably gave him a leg up, but he’s putting it to good use and putting in the work with one of the freakiest, most diabolical sci-fi thrillers in some time.
Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough, Mandy) is a corporate assassin, but not like a normal one. Using a brain implant, she takes over the bodies of other people, using them to commit her murders so the crimes can’t be traced back to her company. This, of course, takes a toll on her physically, psychologically, and in her personal life. As she begins to unravel, she leaps into her latest target, Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott, Piercing), loses control, and the two consciousnesses battle in a single body.
Full of heady themes of self and fractured identity, Cronenberg and cinematographer Karim Hussain create a stunning film, packed with striking imagery, off-kilter angles and framing, strange use of focus and layers. More than a propulsive narrative, Possessor offers us an immersive sensation, a hellish wandering dream. Lush, vibrant colors, face-melting transfer of consciousness scenes, brutal but still beautiful violence, all add up to an enveloping sensory experience. (I really wish I’d seen this in a theater.)
Riseborough and Abbott, two of the most interesting actors working today, ground Possessor and give all the stylistics and thematic density a human component, warming what could easily be cold and removed. Both are so good at disappearing into roles that it also serves as a perfect metaphor for a character slipping into and out of the bodies of other people. For much of the film, it’s Abbott playing Riseborough playing Abbott. A great supporting cast featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Bean rounds things out.
His career may be young, but between his first film, Antiviral, and Possessor, Brandon Cronenberg has already become a must-watch filmmaker. And it’s good to know we’ll have a Cronenberg delivering horrific things into our eyeballs for years to come. [Grade: A-]