“Possessor” (2020), the new psychological horror film from legacy filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg, is an overwhelming maelstrom of color and sound that excites and intrigues as much as it horrifies. The film, which debuted in theaters in October, has recently, at long last for horror and film lovers, become available to rent and buy at home. Cronenberg, whose father has long reigned as the bloody king of horror, shines as director with this likewise bloody, visceral, high-concept science fiction story.
Andrea Riseborough stars in “Possessor” as Tasya Vos: a corporate assassin who uses a high-tech contraption to implant her consciousness in others in order to kill through them, hiding the ghost corporation she works for and its clients from suspicion and creating perfect scapegoats. The film is an hour and 42 minute-long trip, filled with deep visuals, disorienting edits, unsettling performances and gore galore.
A highlight of “Possessor” is certainly its cinematography. The film is saturated in vivid colors and filled with scenes washed in pink and blue lights, projector images of vibrant reds and oranges and bright wine-colored pools of blood. Though conceptual and ambitious in premise, the story grapples in real-world technological and capitalistic terrors such as data mining; the colors visually mimic this dynamic of hyperenhanced reality.
The camerawork also augments the film in gripping and enticing ways. The scenes will often waver between hazy, blurred images to intensely high-definition ones, which often brings the audience and the characters together into shared, overwhelming feelings of confusion and apprehension. The blending and blurring of faces, close details and surroundings together bend the onscreen world’s reality. The framing often focuses on faces and building facades, or will frame a figure in the center of the screen. Every detail, frame, shot and sequence is intentional and so full of meaning.
The film’s story is warped, tunneling through plot points and characters in burrowing and dizzying fashions. It is simultaneously unsettling and captivating, full of intrigue and dread. The characters are able to play with the threads of reality, and the result is a dizzying account of murder and corporate power plays. There are focuses left on the back burner throughout the movie, simmering in the background until each storyline boils over into the chaos that the film so elegantly portrays. The characters, particularly Vos, grapple with relationships and obligations in a way that humanizes the utter inhumanity and immorality that lies within.
Each individual performance is stellar. Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean, Tuppence Middleton and Rossif Sutherland electrify the screen as they portray believable and genuine characters. Abbott and Leigh, alongside Riseborough, shine as the three leads. They are magnetic, pulling the audience ever-in throughout the movie’s run. Furthermore, the writing creates such a dramatic and tragic cast of characters.
Though the visuals often speak for themselves, the dialogue saturates each scene in the very human tragedies that the horror film creates. The special effects and the gore are amazing — Cronenberg lives up to, and even surpasses, his father’s legacy. The many (often horribly beautiful) sequences of bloody destruction and terrifying insanity seep the story in intense action. No matter how horrible and how awful the film becomes, it is impossible to look away.