Ross Review

David Cronenberg is one of the most iconic names in all of horror cinema. 

Best known for his work directing 1986’s “The Fly,” Cronenberg made a name for himself with a signature style of grotesque body horror that plainly presents disturbing levels of violence. It’s a style that’s become so intertwined with his work that the last name “Cronenberg” has almost become an adjective to describe the kind of disturbing physical horror the director made famous. 

That said, the world-famous director certainly isn’t as active as he once was. His last feature film was released in 2014, and there’s been little said in regards to any future projects. That doesn’t mean the Cronenberg name is done yet though; his son, Brandon Cronenberg, is looking to carry the family legacy with a filmmaking career of his own. 

Brandon Cronenberg’s first feature film, “Antiviral,” was released in 2012, but there was no follow-up to that film until now. “Possessor” — titled “Possessor Uncut” in the United States due to its lack of an MPAA rating — is written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, and it opens at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center this Friday.

“Possessor” is a science fiction horror film that delves into the concept of entering another person’s mind and controlling them. The main plot of the film revolves around a secretive company that kidnaps people and inserts their own employee’s consciousness into the kidnapped person's head. By doing this, the employee then possesses the host with the intent to commit horrifically violent murders in the name of capitalistic and scientific gains. 

Despite its interesting premise, the plot of the movie is pretty hard to follow. There are a lot of logical and storytelling leaps that are made without much regard to whether the audience will be able to follow along. Admittedly, that is often a style directors choose to keep their audience intrigued and coming back for more analysis. Though, it’s hard to imagine watching “Possessor” more than once simply because it is so unsympathetically gruesome.

While watching “Possessor,” it’s easy to tell that the stylistic apple hasn’t fallen far from the Cronenberg tree. This is one of the most violent films I’ve ever seen. Period. End of Sentence.

However, the film is not a relentless gorefest from beginning to end. Its violent delights are sprinkled throughout the film, giving the story and characters room to breathe between horror shows. When these gruesome moments happen, however, they are so excruciatingly violent that it feels as if it’s trying to make up for the lack of violence in the scenes prior. There are heads beaten in, ferocious stabbings and many other acts of extreme gore that will continuously rock and disturb the viewer. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to avert my eyes on a couple of occasions simply because I couldn’t handle it. 

Looking beyond the violence of “Possessor,” the plot of the film leaves a little to be desired. 

The central concept of using technology to possess and control innocent people is interesting. It’s an excellent idea for a sci-fi horror movie, and Brandon Cronenberg did a fantastic job explaining and developing this idea so that it’s understandable to the viewer.

To put it plainly though, it’s hard to care about any of these characters. There’s little-to-no development of any of them. The characters are presented as boring, everyday people, but there’s not really any development as the film goes on, with almost the sole exception of Tasya Vos, played by Andrea Riseborough. Vos is the one character to which the film provides some backstory and reasoning behind her actions. When the audience doesn’t care about the rest of these characters, it undermines the emotional impact of the intense violence of the film.

Looking beyond the character and story issues, “Possessor” is unquestionably a well-crafted film. 

Brandon Cronenberg shows that he knows how to create an artistic film, there’s no doubt about that. The lighting, use of color and general composition of shots are all excellent. Overlooking the intense violence, the visuals of the film are legitimately beautiful. 

With “Possessor,” Brandon Cronenberg shows he certainly has the potential to live up to the massive reputation of his father. Though the film had issues, it does undoubtedly show that he is a talented director with an eye for outstanding visuals. The violence of the movie is a lot, to say the least, so I’m not sure this movie is for everybody — honestly I’m not even sure if this movie is for me. 

What I won’t argue is that Brandon Cronenberg did a superb job bringing his vision to the screen, and if he follows up with another great movie, he’ll be well on his way to making a name for himself. Though even if that doesn’t happen, “Possessor” is still a strong film that I imagine will gain a cult following and be talked about for years to come.