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Review: 'Possessor Uncut' is an engrossing, shocking sci-fi horror hybrid

Possessor Uncut_Andrea Riseborough_CourtesyNEON.jpg
Andrea Riseborough stars in Possessor Uncut (Photo: NEON)

Possessor Uncut
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated: R

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Synopsis: A possessor, a person who can inhabit other people’s bodies, struggles to retain her own identity as she begins to lose control of her host.

Review: With “Possessor” director Brandon Cronenberg offers audiences a violent, psychological thriller with science-fiction trimmings. It’s the sort of film you’d expect from his father, David Cronenberg. That’s not intended as a slight. Far from it.

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Set in an alternate version of Toronto in 2008, viewers are dropped into a world where technology has been developed that will allow a person to take control of another person’s body remotely. It requires a crude implant be drilled into the host’s brain and can irrevocably damage the possessor’s psyche. But it is possible.

The technology is used by a secret organization to assassinate targets for deep-pocket clients. In the opening scene we see Holly (Gabrielle Graham), a hotel employee, repeatedly stab and kill a man at a party she was hired to work. Holly is subsequently killed by responding police, but the assassination doesn’t go exactly to plan.

It is revealed that Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) was controlling Holly. Tasya is a particularly good possessor. Unfortunately, she’s showing signs of mental exhaustion. She’s losing touch with herself. This is troubling to her superior, Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), but Tasya insists she’s fine. Her next assignment proves otherwise.

Placed within Collin Tate (Christopher Abbott), a non-important no one, who is set to marry the daughter of wealthy businessman, Tasya struggles to control her host.

“Possessor” doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to explain its science or even to explore the social structure that it takes place within. Cronenberg is far more interested in what is going on within the minds of Tasya and Collin. We’re give just enough context to know what is at stake in their lives. And just a peek at what the world they live in. Its smart without drawing attention to itself.

The film’s violence is incredibly graphic and unrelenting. Collin’s job, he essentially spies on people through their web cameras to see what products they have purchased, also lends itself to a few moments of uncensored voyeurism. It’s a rough experience, but one that I found to be compelling.

“Possessor” is a film of extremes. Some of the scenes are gorgeous, many of them are grotesque. Even at its most extreme, there’s an intimacy that doubles the impact of its gore. It’s simply the most haunting film that I’ve seen this year.