Mind Over Splatter

Buckets of blood get spilled in Brandon Cronenberg’s stylish thriller

Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Possessor: Uncut
Opens October 2

3 out of 5

There are obvious similarities between Brandon Cronenberg’s work and his father, David: the body horror, the clinical approach, the psychological depth of the main characters. But it’s a notch lazy to leave it at that. The younger Cronenberg seems to be re-examining his dad’s early work through a contemporary lens, much like Brian De Palma reinterpreted Hitchcock’s oeuvre. Antiviral, for instance, is nothing if not the natural evolution of the society depicted in   Videodrome.

Possessor takes elements of eXistenZ and, to a lesser degree, Dead Ringers, to create a tale of identity theft and personal discovery with a twist. The compulsively watchable Andrea Riseborough is Tasya Vos, a hired gun who, via brain implants, can inhabit other peoples’ minds and commit murders with impunity.

The trade is taking a physical and psychological toll on Tasya, but she’s also developed an addiction to bloodletting that prevents her from stopping. A well paid gig becomes the catalyst to all of her issues when the would-be vessel (Christopher Abbott, Girls) proves to be a challenge to control. What’s more, he has proclivities similar to Tasya.

A few seconds into Possessor you know what you’re in for: buckets of blood and exceedingly violent deaths. But the most uneasy moments come from not knowing who is in control. Riseborough is superb as a woman losing her identity to her addiction/job, and Abbott does an equally fine job channelling the protagonist’s struggle.

Brandon seems at ease with comparisons to his dad — so much so, that he hired Jennifer Jason Leigh (eXistenZs Allegra Geller) as Tasya’s handler. Having said that, Brandon leans toward a more stylized approach to horror, think Wes Anderson with a mean streak. His work is still very detached, but already shows more substance than most of his peers.