Sitting in the driver's seat of Colin's brain, Tasya has three days to take out Bean's jerky Jeff Bezos-like figure. Colin goes to work at his future father-in-law's company, where he spends his days wearing goofy-looking goggles and identifying types of curtains while peering through the cameras on personal computing devices. (Cronenberg's script possesses flashes of dry humor that help break the often dour mood.) He goes home, where he vapes, listens to Orville Peck, snorts coke, and has sex with his girlfriend, who can tell there's something off about him. He's not acting like himself. "You've gone strange on me," she says.
Though the movie is packed with jargon, there's a refreshing simplicity to Possessor's premise. It could be the set-up for a Hollywood-produced Jet Li movie from 2005. Instead of choreographed fight scenes and shoot-outs, the slick action that powers a more conventional mind-bender like Christopher Nolan's Inception, Cronenberg packs his movie with psychedelic detours, hallucinatory montages, graphic sex scenes, and bursts of gruesome carnage. In one dreamlike sequence, Abbott smushes Riseborough's head and puts on her face like a crumpled Halloween mask. Again, it's that type of movie.
Like with many sci-fi art movies, the storytelling can get needlessly obtuse. A little confusion comes with the territory, especially when attempting to dramatize the slipperiness of identity and explore the limits of consciousness, but Possessor feels like someone used a jagged knife to remove scenes that a more conventional thriller would provide. The psychological motivations don't always scan; people who you think might be important to the plot end up disappearing from the movie. The narrative operates on its own splintered stoner logic.
In David Cronenberg's '80s horror classic Videodrome, Professor Brian O'Blivion, the Marshall McLuhan-like media theorist, muses that "the television screen is the retina of the mind's eye." Possessor envisions a familiar dystopian world where screens are so plentiful, so mundane that they no longer even register as potential threats. The mind's eye can be tampered with, manipulated, and hijacked for the right price. As a puzzling genre provocation, the younger Cronenberg's film might not be the new flesh you're looking for. But Possessor, rife with haunting images and weary performances, does an effective job of wearing the skin of its midnight movie forebears.