November 2, 2020 Possessor Uncut (Movie Review)
One of the more highly anticipated Horror films of the year, Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore directorial effort Possessor Uncut, drops on digital November 3rd, as well as on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra Blu-ray Combo on December 7th, all thanks to Well Go USA.
Briefly looking back, it has been eight years since Cronenberg’s 2012 debut feature Antiviral. With fans eagerly awaiting his new project, Possessor. Retitled Possessor Uncut, it is a hybrid Sci-Fi/Horror film that touches on themes of identity, reality, gender, and mortality, among others. If these sound too familiar for the genre, do not be deterred; Cronenberg makes them fresh and compelling wrapped in a story awash in brutal violence.
The plot focuses on a lone woman, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough: Oblivion 2013, Mandy 2018). Vos is employed by a mysterious corporation as a contract assassin by way of temporarily taking over the minds of others. We see the process in the opening scene, as the hack target, a young woman working as a hostess, sticks a jack into her own head and disconnects from a machine. She then proceeds to gruesomely murder her target, a nameless wealthy suit, in full view of dozens of people. Unable to commit suicide to disconnect, she instead forces the police to shoot her dead and is then brought back to reality, where her body sits in the sensory deprivation device that allows her to project her consciousness.
This process is similar to a ‘ghost hack’ from the famous anime Ghost in the Shell, but comes at a huge risk for the perpetrator. The human mind is a powerful thing and is not easily taken over. Vos is always in danger of losing her identity inside that of her victim.
Consequently, whenever Vos finishes a mission and her mind is brought back to reality, she has to go through a sort of mental decompression in order to ensure her mind isn’t lost among the memories and identity of those she hacks. Her boss, Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh: Single White Female 1992, The Hateful Eight 2015) administers this test with the same cold detachment she displays throughout the film. This company is heartless, which doesn’t bode well for an expendable asset who is completely vulnerable while on the job.
Possessor Uncut’s central story comes on Vos’ next target, Jack Parse (Sean Bean: Lord of the Rings series, Snowpiecer series), the wealthy CEO of a data mining company. The corporation is hired by Parse’s stepson Reid to take out he and his daughter Ava, leaving him as the sole heir to the massive company, which in turn will be controlled by Girder’s corporation through Reid. The hack target is Colin, Ava’s boyfriend played by Christopher Abbott (James White 2015, It Comes at Night 2017). However, Vos’ recurrent memory problems and Colin’s willpower prove to be serious complications, and Vos struggles to maintain control and her grip on her sanity, both in reality and the psychic plane.
The name Cronenberg carries serious weight in the film industry, and it is inevitable, if unfair, that Brandon will be compared to his father. But he successfully carves out his own brand of Sci-Fi Horror while keeping the deeply disturbing nature of many of his father’s films. The side plot of Vos trying to reconnect with her husband and young son, who are blissfully unaware of the nature of her job, is executed with the right balance of sensitivity and discontent, the same way Vos meanders through life as her mind becomes more and more numb to feelings through her bloody work. What is her identity and will she even remember her family after another job?
The lead actors are excellent. Riseborough and Abbott turn in two of their best performances as Vos and Colin, respectively. Abbott has to look constantly uncomfortable in his own skin, as most of his screen time is played while Vos is possessing him. Additionally, his frantic moments of grabbing and losing control of his own consciousness are the most harrowing in the film, and his performance throughout is highly engaging. Riseborough is likewise perfect in her role; we meet Vos as a somewhat disconnected loner who seems untroubled by her work, but when faced with mortality in a different light that’s closer to her, things change drastically. After a point, the audience is on a white-knuckled grip of a ride wondering which of them will break first.
Overall, Possessor Uncut is the film that will put Brandon Cronenberg’s name on the map. He is still very young in his career but his talents are undeniable. This movie is brutal in its violent peaks and has a way of staying with you after watching, not unlike the way a long buried, disturbing memory has a way of floating about on the edge of consciousness. This will doubtless be on many lists of best Horror films of the year in a couple of months time. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Possessor Uncut 4.5 out of 5 stars.