Possessor, the review: the body of the crime

The review of Possessor, second feature by Canadian filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg, available on Prime Video.

Possessor: a horror scene

With the Possessor reviewnow available on Prime Video in Italy after almost two years of international circulation, we are talking about one of the first cinematographic victims of the pandemic: the second work by Brandon Cronenberg, in fact, had made a lot of talk about itself during the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, and then became one of the many titles that struggled to find their audience, even only through specific events, following lockdowns and restrictions of various kinds. Of course, it would hardly have reached a particularly large audience, and for this it is not surprising that in our part of Italy it is yet another auteur feature film to end up directly on a platform, victim of another disease which is the crisis of the film market in Italy. .

Psychic murder

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Possessor: Andrea Riseborough during a scene

Possessor is set in an alternate “past” (we are in 2008) where paid murders are committed by having the killer control the body of another person through a mental graft, with the unaware scapegoat who is then forced to commit suicide at the in order to eliminate all evidence and allow the killers to return to their original bodies. Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is one of these people who commit crimes at a distance, and the psychological impact is making itself felt: by dint of imitating those who are controlling and killing in the most brutal ways, she struggles to be “normal” in interactions with her husband and son. On the other hand, her employer, Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), is convinced that Vos would be more effective without emotional ties, and between discussions she accepts a new assignment, a double murder. But something goes wrong with the graft because the scapegoat on duty does not die and begins to fight against Vos’s personality, transforming what was supposed to be a routine mission into a race against time to put everything back in place.

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Possessor: a horror scene

Brandon Cronenberg, son of art, had previously made himself known in Cannes, in 2012, with his debut Antiviral, a horror that even the most enthusiastic critics had described as being heavily indebted to the works of his father David Cronenberg, interested in bodies and illnesses (after all, he had thought of becoming a scientist before going to the cinema). Here too there is a certain influence of the parent, at least on a thematic level, but the child’s approach is much dirtier, more cruel, almost more nihilistic (where David, in the recent Crimes of the Future, even emphasizes with greater force her romantic side). Ironically, Prime Video offers only the film version, thus eliminating the most sensational moment of body horror which is instead one of the high points of the unrated copy, available on home video in other countries.

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Possessor: Christopher Abbott in a scene from the film

It is a film that questions identity and reinterprets possession in a technological key, anchoring horror in a scientific sterility that underlines the desire to completely eliminate the human factor. With the paradox that the film becomes more emotionally powerful precisely when it pursues coldness and inhumanity, making the most of an interpreter like Riseborough who remains magnetic even when she has to move in the name of total impassivity. Cronenberg proceeds mercilessly, in the name of a personal poetics that does not discount anyone, dirtying a horror landscape that has recently become too clean and conventional in the English language. And even with the small screen size depending on how you view the film on the Amazon platform, the visceral impact is not indifferent.


Closing the review of Possessor, we note how Brandon Cronenberg, while partly following in the footsteps of the more famous father David, is building his own intriguing and disturbing horror path.

Because we like it

  • Andrea Riseborough is phenomenal.
  • The premise is full of well-studied ideas.
  • The strong moments recall the cinema of David Cronenberg, but with an extra grotesque charge.

What’s wrong

  • Too bad that Prime Video only offers the censored version.

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