‘Possessor’ review: Dir. Brandon Cronenberg [Shudder Saturday]

Hopefully you are settling down to read this review having already experienced Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore project, Possessor, as it’s a film best viewed cold. The more you know, the more removed you may become from the piece, and that would be a crying shame. Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is a high-tech assassin who hijacks the bodies of others to commit her hits. The company she works with has an excellent reputation and Tasya is one of their elite killers. After being tasked with a very high profile target, Tasya finds herself inside a body that is not all that receptive to having an extra passenger onboard, and a battle for supremacy over the body unfolds. 

Son of the legendary David Cronenberg, Brandon’s work is always met with high expectations. Given his father’s huge legacy, it’s safe to say that there’s a fair amount of pressure to perform on a par with the icon, and whilst many would baulk at this challenge, the younger Cronenberg seems to relish it. Like his debut feature AntiviralPossessor has the Cronenberg family’s signature quirk stamped all over it, and is a classic case of like father, like son. Both filmmakers appear to be fascinated by body horror and here Brandon Cronenberg ventures into some new territories that even his father hasn’t dared go into yet. 

The appearance of Possessor is nothing short of sublime. There’s a rich vividness to the colour palette that attracts your attention whilst conveying depths of hidden meanings. As with Antiviral before it, Possessor can simply be viewed as a piece of luxurious moving art. Almost every frame could be hung up in any number of galleries across the world and generate masses of debates about their significance and intricacies. Even the violence is conveyed in a beautiful manner. It’s an odd thing to say, but attention and care has been put into every droplet of blood to help drive the narrative forwards. FX team 13 Finger FX has once again outdone themselves. Headed by Dan Martin, they are the team that made last year’s The Girl on the Third Floor so dreadfully gooey. Here they showcase some eye-popping practical effects that won’t easily be forgotten.

Early reviews of the film have seen the ever fabulous Andre Riseborough lauded with praise, and whilst she is worthy of commendations, it is Christopher Abbott who gives the star performance.  He plays Tasya’s latest host, Colin Tate, or more specifically, he plays Tasya pretending to be her new host. There’s a little bit of brain ache trying to get the head around the performance as Abbott convincingly mimics Riseborough’s character, whilst at the same time conveying that character’s interpretation of his character. Sounds confusing on paper, but is compelling to watch on screen. With talent like this in his arsenal we cannot wait to see what projects Abbott picks next. 

Stunning in its beauty, mesmerising in its brutality, and captivating with its complexities, in Possessor Brandon Cronenberg more than demonstrates that he’s ready to inherit the family business. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Possessor is available on Shudder UK now.

This review was first published on THN.