Pegging. Not the hanging out of clothes on the washing line but the bizarre practice of girlfriends poking their boyfriends where the sun doesn’t shine with an object. Now the thought of someone entering our inner sanctum is not a welcome one as we have to think twice about even allowing the gas meter reader into the hallway but Possessor takes the female inside a male to its logical conclusion. Here the Possessor is a Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) an agent who works for a shady corporation able, via implanted technology, to inhabit other peoples bodies and commit assassinations for high paying clients.
It’s a high concept sci-fi idea that plays out the idea in its opening moment as the agent pierces her scalp with an electrode as she inhabits the body of a waitress at a corporate party where she calmly walks up to a big wig, slashes his throat and stabs him to death in a frenzy all in unflinching detail before she’s shot to pieces by the police. Right from the start Possessor sets out its stall as to what to expect and this is a film that justifies its 18 certificate. With mission accomplished Tasya is able to be called back to her own body lying prostate at the corporations HQ where she is debriefed by Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It’s an indicator of how dangerously the job can consume Tasya when -during a debrief she has forgotten that she is separated from her husband – its a job that can cost her her mind and it’s a hint at where this is going.
Assigned for another job she studies her mark, Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott) whose girlfriend is the daughter of a CEO intent on gathering confidential information from the world’s population, think an evil version of Mark Zuckerberg harvesting peoples personal details from an online app ….oh, too late! To become his successful possessor she studies Colin from afar mimicking his turn of phase and intonation ready to assume his mantle and in turn assassinate the CEO John Parse (Sean Bean in another role that sees him destined for yet another early movie demise). With Tate acting as though controlled by Tasya there’s moments when he almost gives away that he really isn’t himself in his early interactions with his girlfriend. But having become Tate’s possessor she finds herself struggling to control his mind without losing her own.
Knowing that this has been written by Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, is an indicator of what to expect and he continues his father’s interest in body horror. With some startling and shocking imagery here its little surprise that when this was first shown at a film festival the organisers enforced the 18 certificate and following in the Cronenberg family tradition there is no humour to leaven the violence.
As determinedly adult in theme as Possessor undoubtedly is, its concept is not dissimilar to ‘All of Me’ an early Steve Martin comedy where he finds himself inhabited by the spirit of Lily Tomlin giving rise to all manner of brilliantly performed physical humour. There’s a great premise at the centre of Possessor which prompts further ideas but doesn’t make perhaps as much of them as it could. What Possessor doesn’t really explore is the female point of view now in a man’s body focussing more on her losing her mind with some grim and extreme violence as might be expected. This is Cronenberg Jr’s second film, a neon lit nightmarish horror and there are a lot of cerebral ideas in here to mull over that, like many of his father films, take the genre to a higher level with some pretty gruesome moments.
Here’s the Possessor trailer…….