Imagine for a moment what it would feel like if a malevolent spirit or entity entered your body and you completely lost control, but somehow still continued to exist. The idea can be cute, as it was in the case of the movie Soul, (which I watched solely because of the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross soundtrack) but when the idea is put to use for darker purposes, you end up with something far more sinister.
You end up with a movie like Possessor (2020).
Directed by Brandon Cronenburg and shot claustrophobically close, the movie follows Tasya Voss, a high-profile corporate assassin that uses mind-jacking technology to carry out her kills. We meet Tasya at a low point. Before first assassination, you see Tasya Voss’s character, in skin suit, laugh maniacally in the mirror as she adjusts a control dial. Then, she carries out her first murder, something far more akin to a crime of passion than an assassination by a professional, brutally stabbing the victim.
It’s quite violent and more than a little disturbing.
The technology is simple in presentation, a mechanical hood with a shape reminiscent of a plague doctor mask goes over Tasya Voss’s face and she gets to play master puppeteer. When she wakes up from her first kill in her own body, it’s clear that she’s still foggy and visibly distraught. She barely passes diagnostic questions and when she returns to her daily life, she awkwardly goes through the motions with a husband and child; a blank stare while making love, a flat affect while the child reaches a milestone.
As soon as Tasya can get away, she calls to ask for another mission.
Throughout the next mission, it’s clear that Tasya is not only addicted to other people’s lives–she makes love to her host’s wife and seems perfectly at ease pretending to be someone else, even enjoying it–she prefers other’s lives to her own. So much so, in fact, that she loses ground to her host after she carries out her next assassination and an intense psychological battle plays out. Interspersed with mind-bending editing sequences, the host symbolically rips Tasya Voss’s face off and places it on his own as a crude mask. Tasya’s no longer in control, but she’s not altogether gone, either, because the host, now on the run for murder, tracks down Tasya’s real-life world. I can’t spoil the end, but the revelations are truly shocking.
It’s not something pleasant to imagine, but Possessor isn’t a light horror film. It’s an artistic masterpiece that poses tough questions about what lengths we can go to escape our daily lives, and an unflinching look at how technology like this could be used to criminal advantage.
If you want something cute, go watch Soul. If you want something to really think about, watch Possessor. You won’t forget it.