The best science fiction is always built upon interesting ideas, and the best horror lives and dies with its ability to scare or unsettle. Possessor (2020), against both measures, is a fantastic piece of modern sci-fi horror!

Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor (2020) is set within a slick Ballardian near-future, where corporations have moved on from merely vying for customers’ attention to taking strides to control it, invading consumers’ homes, and their consciousnesses, with the insidious use of tech which allows one individual to be almost completely possessed by another.


Possessor (2020)

Vos, played perfectly overworked by a pale and haggard Andrea Riseborough, is a successful assassin, groomed by her manager, Girder, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, to use technology to possess individuals and carry out high-value assassinations.

This killing by proxy requires Vos to piggyback the consciousness of a mark, much like an Avatar, via drugging and invasive brain surgery, that gleefully ramps up the body horror with nods to Cronenberg Senior.


Possessor (2020)

The film follows Vos as she must possess the symptomatically disaffected Colin, played by Chris Abbott, to take advantage of his relationship with the daughter of a corporate powerhouse. By having him kill both father and daughter the power succeeds to the family member who paid for the hit in the first place. The contract kill would reward Girder with shares in the business and, most importantly, control over the new heir to the company.

A life of murder and dystopian corporate espionage sees Vos’s family life disintegrate through her own disassociation. Groomed by Gilder and guided back to her consciousness via a sterile box-ticking exercise, Vos’ existence outside of the Possession Tech and her all-consuming work, is gradually eroded. Her behaviour, when on the job, leans ever more into the erratically psychopathic, delighting in the squelching, brittle physical trauma that is, at times, literally teeth grating and on par with Scanners (1981) or Videodrome (1983).


Possessor (2020)

Colin’s well-being is also undermined, before ever becoming a tool for Vos and Gilder, by employment on the Orwellian assembly lines in the lower levels of his father-in-law’s data mining company.

The hit encounters problems and the side effects of invading another’s psyche cause both Vos and Colin to mentally unravel, calling into question their sense of self in a desperate attempt to maintain their sanity. The film regularly delves into hallucinogenic visuals, with Vos wrestling with an unsettlingly fleshy metaphorical mask, like a psychological Leatherface, losing grip of who they really are, as physical shells melt and reform, melding with scarred and contorted visions of both characters.


The majority of the high-end city setting is swathed in cold, washed-out blues and sterile greys, while the pale reds and bold yellows, flood the mental anguish of the protagonists. The score is full of tonal brooding and warped synthetic pulses, strained chords, and the hum of city traffic.

Ideas of delegation, surveillance, and paranoia run throughout Possessor (2020) and question who, really, is in charge as, while Girder and co manipulate innocent individuals into violent killers, their intended victims are corporate elites who have made millions invading the homes, and technology, of the general populace.


Possessor (2020)

The fallout from this intense and psychologically draining affair sees the film ramp up to a perfectly horrific finale, as the layers of reality begin to fall apart, and we find that the modern family is not safe from the invasive practices that permeate the black mirror-like society, and repeats the underlying question of who is manipulating who?

Possessor (2020) is available in a Limited Dual Edition 4K UHD/Blu-ray box set from Second Sight Films website here.

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