GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg.
Starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbot, Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Horror/Science-Fiction, U.K./Canada, 104 mins, cert 18.
Released On-Demand 27th November by Signature Entertainment
With his debut feature ANTIVIRAL, it was immediately apparent that Brandon Cronenberg was more than up to the task of following in his father’s footsteps. The shared interest of body horror via subversive technology and coolly cerebral storytelling helped to forge an exciting and promising debut. Now with his follow-up POSSESSOR, he not only carries on the family tradition of those previously mentioned traits, he now seems to forge his own transgressive and extremely bloody path with this tale of identity crisis and corporate espionage.
Andrea Riseborough plays Tasya Vos, an assassin for an unnamed organisation who specialise in “binding”, wherewith the help of an advanced technology she can inhabit and take over another person’s body, letting her get close to her target, whom she exterminates in bloody fashion. Tasked with binding to the boyfriend of a tech CEO’s daughter she soon finds that the mind of the body she inhabits is beginning to surface, sparking off an internal struggle both mental and physical that threatens to spill out into Tasya’s own life.
From the beginning, Cronenberg goes for the jugular here. In terms of storytelling the violent nature of Tasya’s job is shown throughout in unflinching detail, fitting along nicely with the futuristic, otherworldly imagery and nature of the story’s technology; think IKEA by way of H.R. Giger. The measured, cerebral approach of his previous feature is still present. Still, the pacing is let rip in its second half with a narrative, that like its characters, begins to fracture, threatening to collapse into chaos. Nicely filmed throughout, Cronenberg makes the decision to go practical with his effects with gore that is reminiscent and as extreme as the likes of Lucio Fulci at the height of his powers. The use of simple in-camera trickery also highlights the fragile mental nature of its protagonists/antagonists in a highly effective manner.
Andrea Riseborough is now in the position of becoming a genre mainstay with this and her previous roles in MANDY and the thematically similar CROCODILE episode of BLACK MIRROR. She gives a steely performance lacking in vanity and is unafraid to keep the unsympathetic edges of her character on display throughout. Christopher Abbot compliments her perfectly with his portrayal of the hijacked Colin, whether playing himself or when Tasya is in control, proving himself as one of the more exciting young actors onscreen at this moment. After performing in Cronenberg Sr’s eXistenZ, another tale of blurred reality brought about by invasive technology, Jennifer Jason Leigh gives another fine performance as Tasya’s ruthless boss Girder whilst Sean Bean shows a real nasty edge as their target.
Nicely stylised, POSSESSOR proves beyond any doubt that Brandon Cronenberg has what it takes to carry on the family name. Establishing himself as fearless as his father when it comes to creeping the viewer out; Colin’s attempt to regain control of his body is one of the creepiest and unsettling series of images to grace a screen in many a year. Hard-edged and glass clear in its clarity of storytelling, POSSESSOR is a film that immediately impresses and inhabits the mind of whoever watches it, much like its own anti-hero. The Cronenberg name lives on, and this film whets the appetite for what the new generation will bring us after this wildly impressive entry.