Brandon Cronenberg is definitely his father’s son. This is obvious from the beginning, with the ultra-gory psychologically induced scenes that continue to surprise and compel. His newest feature, Possessor, a horror fracturing dive into assassins who use brain implant technology to inhabit the bodies of others to terminate high profile targets.
In terms of narrative and style, there is reason to say this is executed quite well. There is certainly a lot to think about, with how the film observes identity construction as it interoperates a feeling of emptiness that companies require our bodies to go through. This gruesome focus on the relationship between mind and body was really interesting as they brought up this message about a health work/home balance. The concept of entering other human sleeves is not particularly original, seen as recently as Netflix’s Altered Carbon, but Cronenberg makes it seem fresh by ramping up unease and pushing themes of the slipperiness of identity, gender swapping, and moral confusion to the forefront.
Possessor is far more perplexing than expected, and there does seem to be something missing. This does not mean it was a bad film, but maybe there is something more desired from a film that is given such high praise during festival season. Since its premiere at Sundance back in January, the film has been met with such positive critical ratings. It’s in some ways unfortunate that Brandon Cronenberg’s career will always be marked by a particular familial connection. The fact that David Cronenberg hasn’t made a feature in six years casts an unfair shadow which I’m sure had some unconscious impact on my expectations for this with its potentially allegorical techno body-horror.
Cronenberg does excel at delivering a film with no boundaries, with visuals that although hard to stomach most the time, were mesmerising. Personally, these were Possessor’s strengths and everything else somewhat forgettable. In terms of atmosphere, it can make you feel this sense of dread and utter despair. It can make you feel so much with so little, so interesting while being in inaffective. Dissociation, dissatisfaction with self, the competition of everyday life, the way we spend our days with one half of our brains inside a phone. But I’m also thinking about what Possessor says about work: how it forces itself to be our priority, how we put our lives on hold just to get through an afternoon of meetings. a work mobile phone sitting facedown on the table at dinner. There is so much that was explored but it can make you feel so numb all together.
Overall, Cronenberg’s latest remains a diverse blend of genre, with all the bloody gore you would expect mixed with the fickle science fiction. There is surely something special to be seen here, and does provide hope for future Brandon Cronenberg projects.