Movie Review

POSSESSOR (2020) Review

Like Father, Like Son

Red Band (uncut) trailer for Brandon Cronenberg’s “Possessor”

he tagline for The Fly II was “Like Father, Like Son.” And Brandon Cronenberg, the director of Possessor, and the son of famed body horror director David Cronenberg, proves it. The plot follows an organization that possesses people’s minds from a remote terminal, using their bodies, literally, to carry out assassinations. I didn’t think that assassins would have to do remote work, but everyone is struggling nowadays. Tasya Vos, played by a limber and beautifully porcelain Andrea Riseborough, is a mother who lives apart from her son Ira and her husband Michael. She carries out these assassinations without them knowing.

Tasya Vos, one of the protagonists of “Possessor,” looks fearfully past the camera, highlighted by a red projection.
Andrea Riseborough as Tasya Vos in “Possessor.”

Tasked with a new assignment, Vos must possess the body of Colin Tate (played by a deeply vulnerable Christopher Abbott), in order to kill his fiancé Ava and her father John Parse, played by Sean Bean. For those who are familiar with Bean’s most famous roles, you can probably guess where his storyline ends up. Casting him in any film right now, especially a horror film, implies a massive spoiler.

Colin Tate, stands under an overcast sky in between identical rows of apartment buildings.
Christopher Abbott as Colin Tate in “Possessor.”

What follows is gross out body horror, gratuitous violence, bold editing, and claustrophobic camerawork. It’s inevitable that Brandon Cronenberg’s practical effects skills will be compared to his father’s, and if Possessor is any indication, he’s clearly picked up on how unsettling human anatomy is. In one sequence, as Vos’s consciousness merges with Tate’s, we’re treated to a bastardization of the flower time-lapse scene from Days of Heaven: one body disintegrating into goo as another one grows in its place. There’s even a nice reference to Scanners, and I’m sure countless other David Cronenberg films that horror aficionados will catch.

However, the film is not without its negatives: the characters feel underdeveloped despite the stellar acting. We have a typical protagonist in a sci-fi film who learns about the dangers of technology, while she assaults the mind of another protagonist with said technology. And Christopher Abbot chews up the screen as a psychologically impaired victim, but focuses more on survival than anything else. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives another dark performance in a supporting role, although I wish she had more screen time. And while Brandon Cronenberg inherited his father’s gift for gross-out body horror, his depiction of violence is more gratuitous than story-serving. The editing during the most violent scenes often does nothing except further emphasize that the human body can be ripped apart so easily.


And I feel it’s fair to give a warning about the opening scene: it involves the shooting of a Black woman by police officers. Even though she dies from “suicide-by-cop,” it does not make it any less disturbing to see another black body murdered by police. So, keep that in mind when you begin the movie.


Overall, Possessor is a strong entry in the sci-fi/horror genre, with great performances, cinematography that matches the mood instead of being flashy, and an oppressive atmosphere. It might not have much to say that hasn’t been said already, but it proves Brandon Cronenberg as a talent to watch.



Mixed Fil Am filmmaker and writer. I binge Borges, Faulkner, and Qabbani. Unpublished essays, stories, poetry, criticism, and feelings.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Curtis Francisco-Sarmiento Yap

Mixed Fil Am filmmaker and writer. I binge Borges, Faulkner, and Qabbani. Unpublished essays, stories, poetry, criticism, and feelings.