Possessor ★★★★½

Although potent imagery, I must say that the poster was an eerie put off for a while. There's just something about screaming, droopy faces that makes me cringe. Anyway, as it turns out, POSSESSOR is has little to do with droopy faces. However, I finally got around to it, and POSSESSOR is a marvel. Brandon Cronenberg has engineered a moody, creepy, and deeply unsettling biological espionage horror. POSSESSOR smiles and nods briefly at a number of the thriller cliches, but then just plows on forward completely on its own path.

Brandon Cronenberg's tense thriller follows Vos (Andrea Riseborough) who is a corporate assassin who with special tech is able to 'possess' an unwitting subject for a few days prior to the possession 'wearing off'. She works with/for Jennifer Jason Leigh who plans her high-priced jobs. These jobs are to infiltrate corporate enemies' lives viat family members' brains and kill executives making it look like domestic tragedies. It's sort of a fusion of characters' resumes from JOHN WICK and INCEPTION.

The unfolding of Riseborough's job is alluring as the body-hop has not only the slow, stunned familiarizing of what's going on in this new body (not unlike awaking hungover from a party you don't remember) but the forward escalation to the moment of her 'hit'. Cronenberg's world is a cold, empty one, but it's stylish and tense. Riseborough's consciousness may be in another vessel, but Cronenberg takes back periodically to her body atop a medical bed hooked up to a VR machine that looks like the facehugger from ALIEN. He's got a fantastic eye for impactful visuals.

Although a tense creepy take on corporate espionage and cutthroat capitalism, POSSESSOR is actually a much greater layered nightmare. The film is a terrifying allegory for the dangers of losing oneself in social media or via our online profiles. Poignantly and disturbingly, Cronenberg posits a loss of self-identity and a warping of one's moral self and a loosening grip on one's own mental health. To me, that's the point of the warped mask of Riseborough's face in the promo materials.

On the one hand, maybe I'm reading in, but on the other, POSSESSOR intentionally delves into the work of a social-media data-mining company when there's no other real reason to do so. As a bit of nod to how society consumes its information, Cronenberg dresses up the exterior of the Canadian CBC Headquarters (traditional old media) to be the head office of the film's nefarious tech firm Zoothroo (new media). POSSESSOR suggests that there is a dark side (an element of personal loss) and yet another element of corporate control behind everyone's social-media profiles.

POSSESSOR has a disturbing conclusion, but beyond that, its blending of the need for human interaction with a sense of corporate and technological dread is fascinating. Cronenberg's sophomore film is an impactful work of storytelling and has stuck with me for a few days since seeing this. With this film's cautions of social media, I now hope that my Letterboxd account doesn't lead to the loss of my humanity, or worse yet, a brain-hijacking by Jennifer Jason Leigh. In any event, everything in life still remains a risk-reward thing.

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