September 21, 2020

VIFF 2020 | Brandon Cronenberg Controls 'Possessor'

"You've gone strange on me."
Christopher Abbott Brandon Cronenberg | Possessor: Uncut | VIFF 2020
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2020—Canadian filmmaker (and son of David) Brandon Cronenberg's second feature proves to be a nightmarish sci-fi thriller in interesting and twisted ways. Possessor revolves around a futuristic brain-implant technology deployed here for use in strategic corporate assassinations. While that's a seemingly expected but still inventive premise, how it's executed is deeply unsettling but rich in its dark exploration of personal identity, experienced trauma, and committing acts of violence in a digital age.

Possessor's story focuses on a strung-out drone of a professional contract killer Tasya (Andrea Riseborough) transported inside the body Colin (Christopher Abbott) as we follow a trippy assignment down a psychological wormhole of retro-futuristic mind-control technology (think of Eternal Sunshine or Being John Malkovich done as psychological horror).

Naturally, the latest job goes wrong and Tasya is stuck inside Colin's body wrestling with his mind as more trouble and violence come their way. The film sets clear consequences for the act of possessing other identities depicted through disembodied manipulation (kind of like futuristic body horror).

Christopher Abbott Brandon Cronenberg | Possessor: Uncut | VIFF 2020
Neon / Elevation Pictures
There's an interesting dynamic throughout the film's core grounded by Riseborough and Abbott's performances both essentially playing the same character at war with their own mind(s). The younger Cronenberg assembles an eclectic cast including Sean Bean and Jennifer Jason Leigh in small but meaty supporting roles.

Cronenberg makes Possessor into a trippy techno-thriller fever dream using cycles of violence to explore true consciousness. After establishing his genre premise and gruesome future world, he eschews conventions for a much more visual and cerebral experience of dread and horror fuelled by a sense of technological control.

Possessor screens at the 2020 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Altered States stream at both Vancity Theatre and The Cinematheque on September 25th.


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