Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor follows the story of a corporate assassin and her organization that kills its targets by taking control of their bodies after implanting chips in their brains.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film embrace body horror the way Possessor does. The grit and ruddy aesthetic to gore haven’t had much presence in Hollywood since the 2000s. Well, at least not in a film that meant something beyond blood and guts spilling out. Possessor (2020) is undoubtedly more than just the visceral and does touch upon something meaningful that’s consistent with the film’s narrative.
Possessor is first and foremost a visceral visual experience and it delivers that very well. The amount of gore and surrealism is enough to grab your attention but also make you squirm in your seat. It’s a sci-fi dystopia wrapped in a fever dream which isn’t particularly unique. Neither is the highly saturated and cold color palette.
However, they do still work to full effect with some remarkably beautiful and haunting frames. The production design, albeit simple, is detailed and not distant from the present world, making the world feel lived in. Huge props to the cinematography by Karim Hussain.
What doesn’t work
Scratching beneath that atmosphere, however, is just a hollow symbiotic relationship and an unexciting power struggle. The film avoids fleshed out characters since humans are essentially vessels but botches up interactions between said characters as well. Dialogues range from bland and boring to downright cheesy and embarrassing. It especially makes no sense considering how professional this organization is. A need for tension demands this trained assassin not be well versed with the victim’s daily vernacular enough to avoid suspicion.
The performances are enough to keep you invested, particularly from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Andrea Riseborough. There are multiple scenes that test a range of emotions in quick succession but are also conveniently shot in multiple cuts. There is a noticeable lack of quality between performances which is disappointing. This can mostly be attributed to a lack of nuance in the writing.
Multiple plot holes to keep you guessing about why certain things happen and if they exist to keep the plot moving forward are also apparent. The final reveal made me wonder if the film even needed the entire final act of the film. I understood what the movie was going for, but I didn’t understand why it needed 100 minutes to get there.
Possessor (2020) is a lot of style over substance filled with impressive haunting visuals that unfortunately matter very little because of its bloaty plot and weak character dynamics.