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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Possessor' Review: Andrea Riseborough Assassinates Targets In Brandon Cronenberg's Tech Horror

Andrea Riseborough looking distressed

Well, I do guess it was about time to get absolutely blasted visually for the first time in a long time. Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor offers you a sci-fi horror film which certainly has its fun with colour palettes, mind-numbing imagery and several bloodbaths all in one sweet package. Andrea Riseborough plays Tasya who is a tech-infused assassin taking possession of other people’s bodies to execute missions, this time mainly taking the form of Colin (Christopher Abbott) in order to kill his girlfriend Ava (Tuppence Middleton) and her father (Sean Bean). A possession of some sorts definitely took over me since the visual galore did leave a mark, that mark was just so big that I found some lost potential with it which is a good sign as well.

Films can ride the coattails of a great premise for many scenes at a time, especially if it’s year’s best like with Possessor, but layering that with gnarly practical make-up effects and twisted structure is even more golden. Playing with body control and not explaining the circumstances with dialogue shoved down your throat works because it expects you to figure things out just based on the premise. Most of that success comes from the work done in the editing suite as editor Matthew Hannam seems to understand what Cronenberg is yearning for when it comes to building tension and releasing it in montages or in horror frights, there’s one stand out moment which is referenced in the poster and promo material which is the best example of that.

Cast which has been put together also works in combination with the slick editing and visuals; Riseborough sells the character’s dwindling sense of self, quick scene with Gabrielle Graham (Holly) is intense and Abbott plays the doubled role of Tanya with conviction. Cronenberg often slips up by choosing style over substance but it’s never with the way the scenes play out, most notably just the sex and nudity feel incredibly artificial and detached. There’s quite a lot for a short movie and most of it seems to be just naked bodies in cool colour palettes, not for character exploration.

That is also the thing with the script’s potential, Possessor is at its strongest when it leans to sci-fi, and then wasteful when leaning to horror and thriller because they’re more character driven. How does one’s psyche work when controlling a body of a different gender? How is the lost sense of self measured? What is the biggest violation of possession? There was more on the table to explore.

Smileys: Premise, originality, editing, acting

Frowneys: Minor issues with screenplay and directing

What would one do with knowledge about my drapes? Do they judge my interior design skills?


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