Possessor Uncut

Possessor Uncut is a surprisingly undercooked psychological horror from Brandon Cronenberg.  It’s filled with provocative qualities, but they’ve been assembled in a way that doesn’t come together and, instead, work as standalone strengths.

The plot is a shabbily conceived concept that involves movie goers at an inconvenient time.  We quickly meet an agent named Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) who is hired to be transmitted into other bodies to carry out hit jobs, and her boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is protective of Vos because of her efficiency.  But although she’s good at her job, Vos is mentally distant to her own self and her patient family.  Her latest job seems like a typical gig – take over the body of a man (Christophr Abbott) and kill his girlfriend (Tuppence Middleton) and her high-profile father (Sean Bean) – but it pushes her to the brink.  Midway, Tasya feels as if she’s psychologically competing with her subject and losing as her conscious reality slips away.

Possessor Uncut is a Canadian-produced production, which reminded me of another Canadian-made busted-up thriller also starring Sean Bean – 2012’s Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.  Silent Hill’s sequel seemed like it was cobbled together because the right people were available at the right moment.  Same goes with Possessor Uncut.  Lots of talent is on full display with no support.

Riseborough, Leigh, Abbott, and Middleton are very good in their roles.  So, why did Brandon Cronenberg cheat them out of engaging with the audience?  It’s obvious that Vos is struggling with her mental health, and the people surrounding her either contribute to this problem or are dealing with their own woes that ultimately affect Vos.  There’s potential for some juicy character studies, but Cronenberg would rather cut to the chase and disturb the audience through violent, hallucinogenic visuals.  He’s good at this, but a movie this ambitious needs more than a couple neat visual tricks.  The film is an hour-and-45-minutes.  This ambiguity would be cleaned up if the filmmaker had rounded up to two hours and devote that extra time to some preliminary characterizations.

To give Cronenberg the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible that he was wanting to skip a traditional narrative and create more of a visceral experience;  to make movie goers feel what Tasya Vos is living through.  If so, it’s a gamble that pays off to an extent.  While in Tasya’s nightmarish perspective, there’s an excellent special effect where Riseborough and Abbott melt into each other, another when they split like conjoined twins, and another shock when someone’s head is pushed into itself (this moment rivals the head explosion in Brandon’s father’s movie Scanners).  But, the gruesome spectacles tend to meander, even becoming heavy-handed with symbolism.

It comes as no surprise that Brandon Cronenberg has been making music videos since his feature film debut Antiviral.  Possessor Uncut feels like a saved-up collection of unused ideas for music videos that were maybe a little too hardcore.  A select few may find Possessor Uncut’s experimental nature worthwhile but, when it comes to entertaining horror-thrillers, it wouldn’t be a recommendation I have in mind.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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