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Possessor – Movie Review

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Possessor – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The concept of people possessing other bodies is so fascinating and full of possibilities. In film, it also gives actors an opportunity to inhabit other roles and experiment. The idea behind Possessor of an assassin taking over others is definitely creepy and director Brandon Cronenberg really goes all the way in showing the disturbing implications of such a plot. However, most of the movie seems intent on shocking the audience with graphic imagery and bizarre editing. Horror movies require more than just gruesome scenes. Even with a strong leading turn from Andrea Riseborough, Possessor starts to tire rather quickly and peters out near the end.

There are so many avenues you can go down with this premise and there is admittedly intrigue early on. The opening scene where we see Riseborough’s Tasya on the job and how she fulfills her assignments shows Cronenberg has a clear idea of how this operation works. He presents a unique world, too, with unusual color grading and striking production design. In the few scenes where Tasya is herself, Riseborough shows the trauma she feels and the negative effect this job has on her. The set-up is promising and it makes one curious to see where Cronenberg will take it.

When Tasya takes control of Christopher Abbott’s Colin, that’s when the film starts to unravel a bit. There is a brief attempt at social commentary when Possessor shows employees watching people in their private homes. Yet the movie doesn’t linger on that for long. It eventually becomes a chase movie and Tasya stays inside Colin for most of the runtime. Despite all of the possibilities with this story, it’s disappointing that she only possesses two people and the second person is a bit of a bore. Cronenberg also amps up the violence even more. That’s to be expected with a gritty horror film, but it eventually becomes obvious that it’s one of the few tricks in the movie’s bag.

The viewer is subjected to one disturbing shot after another, but it all feels shocking merely for the sake of being shocking. There needs to be more to these horrific images. Otherwise, the film gets tiring and the splatter effects just become obvious. Cronenberg also relies heavily on hyper-kinetic editing, especially in the third act. However, this becomes annoying rather than intriguing or entertaining. The characters lose any sort of identity they might have had and it makes difficult to get invested. It all leads to Possessor ultimately feeling like a short film that has been unnecessarily stretched out.

Brandon Cronenberg shows a lot of talent as a filmmaker and he clearly has a love for the bizarre and gory. That’s a good quality to have in a horror director. One just wishes Possessor was able to present more than just constant scenes of over-the-top blood and disturbing moments. The film doesn’t take full advantage of its premise and has us follow characters who lack the required depth. What little we see from Andrea Riseborough is great, though. She’s an actress who often provides strong work and is willing to try all sorts of different projects. It’s a shame Possessor ends up so underwhelming as a whole.

Stefan Ellison