POSSESSOR aka POSSESSOR: UNCUT (2020) Reviews and overview

 

Possessor was released on Digital via Amazon Prime on February 1st 2021.

In the UK, Signature Pictures releases Possessor on Blu-ray and DVD on 8th February 2021. Special features:

Deleted Scenes

A Heightened World: The Look of Possessor: Brandon Cronenburg, production designer Rupert Lazarus, cinematographer Karim Hussain, special effects designer Dan Martin and actors Christopher Abbott and Andrea Riseborough look at the visual approach in creating the film’s intricate alternate 2008 universe.

Identity Crisis: Bringing Possessor to Life: Cronenberg and the cast look at how the director explores psychological themes through a science fiction narrative, and how Andrea and Christopher worked together on sharing the same role.

The Joy of Practical: The Effects of Possessor: Look at the film’s mainly on-set special effects.

Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You (dir. Brandon Cronenberg, 10min, 2019): An institutionalised woman with a brain implant describes her dreams to a psychiatrist.

Here is our previous coverage of Possessor:

‘No body is safe’

Possessor aka Possessor: Uncut is a 2020 Canadian-British science-fiction horror feature film about an agent who works for a secretive organization that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies – ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients.

Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral), the Rhombus Media-Rook Films production stars Jennifer Jason Leigh (eXistenZ), Tuppence Middleton, Andrea Riseborough (Mandy), Sean Bean (Silent Hill), Kaniehtiio Horn and Christopher Abbott (Piercing).

Plot:

Tasya Vos is an agent for a secretive organization who uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies, driving them to commit assassinations for the benefit of high-paying clients.

However, something goes wrong on a routine job, and Tasya soon finds herself trapped in the mind of an unwitting suspect whose appetite for violence turns out to rival her own…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“This is a gripping, stylishly-made, and well-acted story about two people teetering on the brink of functionality, for different reasons and with different potential outcomes. Their bodies and minds both go through hell. Watching it happen is every bit as intense as a balls-to-the-wall horror movie should be.” The Aisle Seat

“Cronenberg explores themes relating to the identity and importance of self-worth. The role of the existential impostor within society is also explored. This is one movie you should be checking out. If you’ve got the stomach for it that is!” Back to the Movies

“That the two leads are people we never get to know before we’re thrust into their struggles with self-identity, or that they’re not exactly great people to begin with, means that it might be tough for some to find a rooting interest. But for those that love cerebral thrillers with practical gore, wrapped up in a stimulating sci-fi package, this is a must.” Bloody Disgusting

“Abbott is really impressive, especially in the later parts of the film when he’s wrestling between two identities […] The movie’s premise isn’t exactly unique, but Cronenberg’s sterile, calculated style and a few ingenious variations make it compelling, if completely nihilistic.” Crooked Marque

“Outstanding blasts of blood highlighted by fireplace poker-induced ocular trauma hammer physical horror home with a force equal to, if not greater than, anything in the senior Cronenberg’s oeuvre. It’s a trippy film for sure, but one that feels shortchanged in impact areas. Lessened roles make minimal use of both Sean Bean and Jennifer Jason Leigh.” Culture Crypt

“Brutal, bloody, and unapologetically merciless, Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor is like a cinematic throat punch that I couldn’t help but admire just how audaciously unforgiving it is in its intentions. Blending body horror and sci-fi elements to create his provocative neo-futuristic thriller, Cronenberg demonstrates with Possessor that he might be a chip off the old block, but he’s also confidently blazing his own trail in Hollywood…” Daily Dead

“Cronenberg is most certainly David’s son, and while he’d probably prefers to avoid comparisons, his proclivity towards jarring imagery and shocking material instantly calls to mind his father’s work. David’s 1999 film, eXistenZ, even started Leigh in a story of people plugging into different realities and having trouble distinguishing which one is true.” Eye for Film

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“Reality gets fractured and blood flows in this film, so prepare for a nutty ride. However, it is definitely impressive genre filmmaking. Anyone attracted to extreme sf and action cinema should be drawn to it like a moth to flame. Highly recommended for cult movie fans…” J.B. Spins

“While Possessor may not get a wide theatrical release in the States, it’s something that deserves to be on the radar of genre fans and gorehounds. Even if this kind of thing isn’t usually your cup of tea you might be won over by the premise and terrific execution, as well as the amazing performances by Riseborough and Abbott.” JoBlo

“When I first saw Possessor, my head hurt trying to work out what and who was who. But a second viewing (and viewing some of the extras) helped me to really appreciate Cronenberg’s vision. I also love his alternate reality world, part-retro, part-futuristic; highly-stylised, and minimal: it’s every inch his creation.” Kultguy’s Keep

“Riseborough and Abbott are both excellent, but the script doesn’t give them quite enough to chew on, and when the former’s Vos finds herself doubting her actions, Cronenberg can’t find any way to visualise it beyond some clichéd blurring effects, save for a late dream sequence involving the creepiest mask since Tommy lee Wallace spray-painted a William Shatner mask to create Michael Myers.” The Movie Waffler

Possessor, which deals with a parasitic relationship that turns monstrous, is a thing of unrelenting violence. The gore is on another level here, but the twisted psychology at its core makes it all the more disturbing.” Punch Drunk Critics

“Like Antiviral before it, this body horror thriller about an assassin who uses mind transference technology to terminate her targets reeks of familiar, icky Cronenbergisms. This might have been acceptable if more interest had been shown to character and story development than to gore, retro-futuristic tech, and Toronto’s icy architecture.” Reelist

“This is such a badass concept with such meticulous execution. I want more of Possessor. I want a sequel. I’d love to see this concept expand itself into more ideas because it’s fun, clever, and so entertaining. It features an ample amount of twists and turns to keep you enthralled for the entire ride.” Rendy Reviews

“Irritatingly, the film does have a modern cinema tendency towards a certain trendy murkiness – everything is dark, all the time – and mumbling, none of which does it any favours and will almost certainly date it in no time […] This lets everything down because there are impressive performances all round and some starling visual moments that would be much better if you could actually see what was happening more clearly […] So, Possessor is impressive, flawed, frustrating and startling.” The Reprobate

“Cronenberg is clearly a talented filmmaker, and he gets typically all-in performances from the great Riseborough and Abbott, who are willing to go along with his vision. Like an actual nightmare, it’s the imagery you’ll remember more than the narrative.” RogerEbert.com

” …like his filmmaker father, Cronenberg approaches the depiction of violence in Possessor with detached, clinical precision, devoid of emotional connection or reaction (by the characters, if not the audience), and with a hyper-realism that will leave even the most jaded, cynical audiences shattered, shook, and devastated by Possessor’s near-future dystopia, just as the younger Cronenberg intended (amen). Screen Anarchy

“As Possessor draws to a heart-stopping climax, it leaves its mark on the viewer. There will no doubt be plenty of viewers appalled and repulsed at what Cronenberg has created here, and that’s fine. Possessor is not a film for everyone. And that’s what makes it so special and exciting.” Slash Film

“I mean, really, it’s ugly—gruesome. The fight and murder scenes had me cover my eyes just about each time. It induced anxiety. But it’s a solid film with its own flavor of narrative logic. If you can handle the overt level of serious body horror, you’ll likely be able to uncover its compelling architecture.” Slug Mag

“ …Possessor becomes more conventionally thriller-like and mind-bendy the longer Tasya remains in Colin’s body, although the violence escalates to even more unthinkable levels in the last act […] Through it all, Cronenberg devises incredibly creative practical solutions to suggest the battle that is raging mostly in their heads — exemplified by the sight of Tasya clutching at a rubber Andrea Riseborough mask, distorted almost beyond recognition.” Variety

“There’s some gruesome imagery used to depict the struggle between the two leads as well. Not that that’s a bad thing, just be prepared. A bloody, nihilistic slice of near-future horror, Possessor marks Brandon Cronenberg as someone to watch.” Voices from the Balcony

“There’s a nihilistic strain of hopelessness to Possessor that many may find alienating, but go with it and you’ll be rewarded with an understandably messy, bloody journey into a fractured mind that begs for repeat viewings to fully embrace its many dark pleasures. Stunning.” Wicked Horror

Background:

Cinematographer Karim Hussain, who also shot Hobo With a Shotgun, We Are Still Here and segments of the anthology movies The ABCs of Death and The Theatre Bizarre told Birth. Movies. Death.:

“There’s no significant CGI in Possessor. Everything was done in-camera; the only digital work will be normal little cleanup things—wire removal and stuff like that. All the major effects were done live, so we got to create very radical, strange projection effects and rolling shutter effects to make things look like they’re melting live.

We did acoustic levitation, which is making objects fly in the air using sound, and an optical illusion you can only see in camera that makes it look like water is freezing by throwing a signal through a subwoofer that hits a channel of water and synchronizing the camera shutter and speed to a frequency. It was all very fun techniques that had their roots in science to create the movie’s hallucinatory world.”

Release:

Possessor Uncut was released in the United States and Canada on October 2nd 2020 by Neon and Elevation Pictures. Released in UK cinemas by Signature Entertainment from November 27th 2020.

Cast and characters:

Jennifer Jason Leigh … Girder
Tuppence Middleton … Ava
Andrea Riseborough … Tasya Vos
Sean Bean … John Parse
Kaniehtiio Horn … Reeta
Christopher Abbott … Colin
Hanneke Talbot … Katherine
Rossif Sutherland … Michael
Christopher Jacot … Reid Parse
Raoul Bhaneja … Eddie
Gage Graham-Arbuthnot … Ira Vos
Deragh Campbell … Moira
Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves … Martha
Kathy Maloney … Reporter
Megan Vincent … Alice

Trailer:

YouTube reviews: