‘Possessor’ Shows That Brandon Cronenberg Is the Heir to His Father’s Throne

Brandon Cronenberg’s debut feature-length, Antiviral, showed that he’s interested in continuing his family legacy. His old man, David Cronenberg, is arguably the king of body horror and sci-fi freakouts, and Antiviral was an admirable attempt at making him proud. Possessor, on the other hand, is a different story.

While it’s still reminiscent of something his father would have made in the ‘80s, Cronenberg’s sophomore effort shows that he’s becoming a force to be reckoned with in his own right. He isn’t shying away from the inevitable comparisons to his dad. But with Possessor, he’s delivered a violent sci-fi thriller with an ingenious premise that proves he’s a filmmaker with a singular voice, too.

Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is an estranged assassin who works for a corporation that inserts her consciousness into the bodies of unsuspecting people. She then uses the vessels to murder her targets. They take the fall for her crimes. She goes about her business as usual. It’s a full-proof plan, right? Not quite.

When Tasya is implanted into Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott) for her next mission — to take out a wealthy businessman (played by Sean Bean) — things take a turn for the worse. Colin’s subdued consciousness begins to fight back against the possession, leading to a battle for his identity.

Possessor is concerned with the concept of identity and freedom in the digital/technological age. A world where a surveillance state lurks in the shadows, monitoring our most intimate activities. Colin is tasked with watching people doing the nasty as part of his day job, which leads to the revelation that one of his girlfriend’s friends pleasures herself every day so the elites will keep recommending good vibrators. The movie is thematically Cronenbergian, but it also embraces the family’s love of kink.

The idea that corporate elites have subconsciously taken control of our lives without us even realising is commonplace in sci-fi and horror. There’s also no denying that Possessor amplifies and exaggerates these notions for horrific effect. At the same time, anyone who’s read the daily news headlines or watched The Social Dilemma knows that these concepts aren’t removed from reality. There’s no such thing as freedom. We’re nothing more than data for corporations and governments to use for their own nefarious ends.

Just like his old man’s early output, Possessor also examines how our species has become desensitized to sex and violence. This idea is bolstered through the film’s detached tone, which is chillingly cold and deliciously paranoid throughout. This will be off-putting to some viewers, but it certainly helps enforce the film’s cynical worldview.

Possessor is unsettling and provides some uncomfortable food for thought. But Cronenberg Jr. isn’t too concerned with the message. The movie is still all about the thrills, which Cronenberg delivers through eruptions of gore, gruesome body horror, and wacky mindfuckery. It’s a bloody affair that unleashes violence in a variety of nasty ways, from stabbings to gunshot wounds and more.

But there’s a method to this madness, and Possessor isn’t just shocking for shock’s sake. Cronenberg has crafted an assured second feature that boasts a unique story and enough social commentary to milk our collective fears. The fact that it’s also incredibly stylish and gruesome is an added bonus.

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