To say that Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor is obsessed with the color red is an understatement. It’s beyond infatuated with it, painting its frames with gory bursts of blood, vibrant crimson costuming and set design, and lighting that casts the film in a rose-colored aura that’s undeniably beautiful while also offering an atmosphere of difficult-to-shake disquiet. You absorb all this within just the first few minutes of Possessor, which moves forward to become one of the most interesting, invigorating and inventive releases of this year, whether you’re discussing horror, science fiction or skirting the topic of genres all together. This is a film that transcends categories and simply demands to be experienced.

Like the best works of haunting intrigue, Cronenberg’s film lets its central mystery develop naturally, leaving viewers to experience and understand the movie’s fabricated world without any details of exposition or pretentious explanation being force-fed upon them as if they’re too stupid to comprehend what’s going on (cough, cough, Tenet). The film follows a secret organization that uses brain implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies and use them as surrogates for carrying out assassinations for high-paying clients. In the opening scenes, we’re given this world in doses that eventually paint a whole picture, as Cronenberg leaves breadcrumbs rather than entire loaves (looking at you again, Nolan).

The idea is simple: possess the body, carry out the deed, kill yourself, and return to reality. Our protagonist is Tasya Vos, played by Andrea Riseborough, and her target is Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott). However, while it’s clear that Tasya has plenty of experience embarking on these brain-inhabiting ventures, it’s also evident that the endeavors have clearly had a strain on her mental state. She keeps going back though, as if it’s a drug, and Abbott’s character may very well be her overdose.

Once inside the body of Colin Tate, strange things begin occurring, none of which I’ll dare spoil because what makes Possessor such a grand opus of dread is the unexpected paths it can take from one second to another. In an instant, it can be funny then immediately switch to images that leave your mouth agape. There’s a cut during a sex scene that is edited so cleverly that it at first resembles a penis entering a vagina, until you realize it’s a sharp knife penetrating the surface of somebody’s skin. The blood oozes. You may find yourself cringing. But that’s all part of the film’s aptitude for pulling reactions out of its viewers like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat.

The film is filled with moments like this, where all of a sudden an allegoric truck of cinematic mastery runs you over and leaves you gobsmacked. As Tasya and Colin’s symbiotic relationship begins collapsing into something terrifying, Cronenberg creates this crisis of identity with hallucinatory effects, stellar editing and uncomfortable sound design. It’s humorous to think of this film playing drive-ins to unexpecting audiences, as it’s likely to create an experience akin to the responses of those witnessing the revolutionary shock horror of the 1970s and ‘80s.

Akin to the best works of his father, Brandon Cronenberg crafts a magnificent body horror in Possessor that transcends any nepotistic-related accusations one could throw at the artist. This is a wholly singular work that will be remembered, for sure, both for its ingenious plot and indelible images. It’s hard to shake, especially due to a monumental sequence in the third act that may leave you trembling (hint, it has to do with the disturbing image on the film’s poster and marketing material). Like the agents inhabiting the brains of unsuspecting citizens, this film nestles itself in your brain for days, even weeks, after viewing.

It’s difficult to choose the film’s most enduring moment, as there are so many of them, and it’s likely to differ from viewer to viewer. Some may find this an absolutely abhorrent work, but that’s essentially what’s so great about it. It doesn’t give a fuck about what you think, but at the same time it gives all the fucks in the world when it comes to sheer craft. Mileage may vary, but you’re along for the ride no matter what as Cronenberg pushes this film to the furthest distance and fastest speed possible. Buckle up.

Akin to the best works of his father, Brandon Cronenberg crafts a magnificent body horror and wholly singular work that will be remembered both for its ingenious plot and indelible images.
88 %
Bloody Brilliant
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