The theatre industry is dying, but, in its death throes, ticket sales are fueled by spectacle films and genre pieces with unique, often bloody, stories. In a year with few notable releases, Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor Uncut stands out, appealing to sci-fi and horror enthusiasts alike.
The film was released as “Uncut” in Canada and the United States as opposed to the R-Rated version released in some countries. Trust me, this film earns the right to brandish the moniker of “Uncut”.
Brandon Cronenberg has huge shoes to fill as the son of renowned Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, a master of 80’s body-horror classics such as Videodrome and The Fly. Young Cronenberg does not disappoint. He honours his father’s legacy by adapting his father’s flare to the modern age.
Possessor Uncut’s plot follows a covert techno-assassin, Tasya (Andrea Riseborough), who is hired to murder the rich and powerful. Wearing a mind-transferring helmet – which looks like something from a classic 90’s mecha anime – she transports her consciousness into a scapegoat’s body, taking control to perform savage, brutal acts of violence against the world’s elite.
As the original consciousness fights back, identities blur, and reality becomes unclear. The whiplash pace pulls the viewer from quiet discomfort into bone-crunching madness. Possessor Uncut is an extremely disturbing film, both in terms of the grotesque violence but also psychologically. Tasya’s consciousness is not concrete but flickering, causing unstable behaviour, drawing attention to the brutal, animalistic nature that may lurk within the viewer's psyche.
The film’s neon-fueled terror is heightened by Jim Williams’s atmospheric soundtrack, punctuating otherworldly synth-scapes with sparse, minimalistic acoustic chords.
In terms of style, Possessor Uncut is a knockout win. But the film’s acting elevates it to another level of quality. The only exception is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is usually a show-stealer. In Possessor Uncut she pulls the best qualities from her quiet, mysterious performance in 2018’s Annihilation but doesn’t give the audience anything we haven’t seen from her before.
But the two actors that share the role of the Tasya, Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott, provide phenomenal performances. Riseborough portrays an enigmatic woman (similar to her character in 2018’s Mandy) delivering a performance that is part whispy-stoic and part sleep-paralysis demon. Christopher Abbott swings between restricted, nuanced emotion and unsettling outbursts. Both are definitely actors just itching for breakout roles.
Possessor Uncut is a little bit of Cronenberg Sr’s Videodrome and a little bit of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Cronenberg created an erotic, cerebral film that hypnotizes the viewer with its unnerving yet colourful style. I do wish the film took a little more time to linger in its atmosphere, allowing the world more time to breathe and come alive. I know the adage usually says that “less is more”, but, in this case, Possessor Uncut’s nightmarish world could benefit from a bit longer runtime. For a film so explicit, the world-building is just a little too subtle.
Possessor Uncut transposes 80’s body horror into the modern horror renaissance. With a killer, stylized, and utterly distinct film such as Possessor Uncut, Brandon Cronenberg is reaching high for the bar set by his father.