Like Father, Like Son
Possessor, the new film by Brandon Cronenberg, is proof that the apple doesn’t seem to fall far from the tree.
I’m kind of not complaining. Having been a fan of his father David Cronenberg since seeing his grisly take on the Vincent Price classic The Fly, I’ve grown accustomed to this style of filmmaking. The scene where Jeff Goldblum rambles while literally falling apart in front of Geena Davis is perfectly horrifying and heartbreaking, rivaling the queasy-craziness that pervades when damaged people are turned on by horrendous car wrecks in Crash or the hallucinatory buggy coldness of his Naked Lunch adaptation.
The opening shot of Possesor is of two hands feeling around the top of a skull, sticking something that looks like a needle attached to a cord into it. The next shot is an extreme close-up of the needle penetrating the skull, blood beginning to pool. The needle’s cord, which is attached to some sort of battery thingamabob turns on. A hum slowly swells. The hand’s owner, a young woman, looks vacantly in the mirror. She smiles briefly, cries and returns to a more composed expression.
Throughout the movie, we learn that, via technological implant, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) has psychically taken over the body of Holly (Gabrielle Graham). Tasya is a contracted assassin that takes over the subject’s mind and body, rendering them into puppets that will kill someone they are close to before ultimately killing themselves, leading investigators to assume murder-suicide, leaving no trace of their deceptive machinations. Tasya’s job is something she separates from her family life, a life she robotically takes part in. She rehearses her reactions and facial tics before those interactions. She dissociatively thinks about her gruesome missions while making love to her husband.
Vos’ next contract is to kidnap and use her implant on Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), the boyfriend of Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton), the daughter of billionaire John Parse (Sean Bean), the owner of data-mining company Zoothroo. The hope is that Vos will be able to kill Parses and successfully complete the mission. From there on it’s creeps-inducing visuals, squirm-inducing tension and wince-inducing gory violence. It won’t be everyone’s jam. One gander at the film’s disturbing poster will tell you whether or not it’s your thing.
At some point in the movie, I could only think of films like Existenz, A History of Violence and Videodrome. I’m assuming it’s because of the themes of technological obsession, gross body modification and detached humanity. Admittedly, it probably has a good bit to do with those films’ director, David Cronenberg. The man who popularized clinical body horror in stories that coldly posited the evil possibilities of technology with dashes of uncomfortable psychedelic images and psychosexual stuff thrown in for good measure is Brandon Cronenberg’s dad.
So singing all that praise of David Cronenberg, I’m finding myself ultimately praising him for Possessor which I didn’t intend to do. I’m sure Brandon Cronenberg would prefer this, and his other previous works, to stand on its own merits while he hones his craft. Right now, it’s difficult though since he covers ideas and themes of the mind that his pops studied as well. I guess that’s my complaint if there is one. Maybe it’s nepotism, or maybe it’s just a son organically following in his father’s footsteps? Who knows. Though it has no bearing on the movie’s quality. As a fan of his father, it’s hard not to randomly think about while writing this review. Regardless, it’s freaky and kinda weird.
Possessor is currently available on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and other digital platforms.