mosquitodragon’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've been trying not to let this get overhyped in my mind with all the frenzied adulation it's been receiving within the horrorsphere over the last 6 months or so. And for 45 minutes or so I was starting to think I'd built this up far too much in my head, because I'll admit it: I was just starting to get a teeensy bit bored. Although it looks fantastic and Cronenberg builds a thick doom-laden atmosphere, that first act is just a little too slow for my liking.
If you get that feeling, stick with it. Part of the issue is we seem to be getting set up for a climax which won't happen until the final act, but the shit hits the fan in a rather gloriously demented and brutal fashion a lot earlier than that in the second act.
Cronenberg has put this together with a lot of style, and besides the pace being a bit off, I found it really impressive without being too obsessed with showing what an artist he is. Don't get me wrong, it's quite an arty film, but I think he keeps it on the right side of self-indulgent.
The cast is probably its towering strength though. Andrea Riseborough continues to wow everyone with her class which is great to see. I'm becoming quite a fan of Christopher Abbott and he may actually slightly outshine her here: his slight variation between performance when he is Colin-inhabited-by-Tasya compared to Colin-himself is really subtle and impressive (sorry - this sentence will make more sense when you've seen the film). Also, I loved Sean Bean's turn as the arrogant and aggressive father-in-law - I feel like I haven't seen him since his head got lopped off in a certain TV show about 10 years ago now (!!! sorry, spoilers for that if you've been squatting under a rock for the last decade). And Tuppence Middleton doesn't have all that much to do but hoo boy she looks good doing it - so good in fact that she makes me say weird things like "hoo boy".
I'd probably be more impressed with the high concept here except I believe it's exactly the same idea that Iain Banks explored in his novel Transition from about 9 or 10 years ago? I'm not accusing them of plagiarism or unoriginality or anything - once an idea is out there, It's fair game as far as I'm concerned - but it just means I didn't get that thrill of pondering all the ramifications as the movie unfolded, which I think would have enhanced it for me, because this is that kind of movie.
I guess I was less excited about this than a lot of people, but I do think it's an excellent film and it shows a satisfying progression from Cronenberg's first film, Antiviral, which was also very good. I'm glad he continues to embrace the darkness like this - not just in concept and execution but that ending - man, it's cold. Some will deride Brandon for aping his old man, but to be honest, this feels quite different to a David Cronenberg film to me. There are some similarities in tone, but it's much more a product of its time - possibly even more reminiscent of Ari Aster in execution.
But in theme, this is far more rooted in the psychological than the body, so there's a point of difference to his Dad's work and also his first film. Of course, David's films are heavily psychological as well, but his classic horrors tended to incorporate massive body horror - there was a fascinating examination of the bond between body and psychology in those, which I guess there is here too. Maybe the difference is just that this is about penetration of the brain as opposed to whatever collection of orifices David was thinking about that year.
OK, I need to stop before I trip myself into some weird Cronenbergian hell of my own imagining. Possessor is a classy genre flick - check it out and apparently you need to go for the Uncut version which is what I saw.