An Elite, EVIL Assassin Loses Herself as the “Possessor” reviewed! (Neon / Digital Screener)

Tasya Vos is the top professional assassin employed by a hire-for-murder agency who uses surgically implanted brain transceivers to insert agents’ consciousness into a person’s body who can get close to their intended kill target. The no contact procedure has been successful with some severe drawbacks, such as the potential for slipping out of your own identity in being, in one way, a part of many distinct personalities. When Vos’s next assignment is to insert herself into the mind of the soon-to-be son-in-law of a powerful tech CEO, her individuality begins to crumble, losing her grip as the primary inhabitant of the body. The commingled souls share thoughts and memories and when Vos takes a backseat in a body that’s no longer under her control, her life becomes vulnerable to a confused and unhinged man seeking vindictive measures to evict the assassin from his mind.

Like an existential extension of his father’s career, writer-director Brandon Cronenberg’s foothold within sci-fi horror is anchored by functional practicality, substantial social commentary, and a knack for exhibiting cynical undertones in his sophomore film, “Possessor,” a gripping tech-thriller avowing the soft-pedaled ambiguous identity and corporate invasiveness. “Possessor” is the blood soaked corrosion of individualism that strips morality and replaces it with unapologetic nihilism in a film that feels very much David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” merged with Paul Veerhoven’s “Total Recall” with that plug-and-play dystopian coat of paint that’s being brushed over the quickly disappearing free will. Studios involved in the making of “Possessor” include Rhombus Media (“Hobo with a Shotgun”) and Rook Films (“The Greasy Strangler”) in association with a WarnerMedia division company, Particular Crowd.

“Possessor’s” leading lady, Andrea Riseborough, is no stranger to idiosyncratic roles in equally atypical films having starred in “The Duffer Brothers'” “The Hidden” and played the titular character in the avant-garde horror, “Mandy,” across from Nicholas Cage; yet, from her experience with big-budget studio films, such as “Oblivion” starring Tom Cruise, the English actress felt the uneasy atmospherics to be pressurizing and uncomfortable Riseborough has thus exceled with films such as Cronenberg’s “Possessor” that’s pivots into an alcove just off the main halls of horror and science fiction. Riseborough looks nothing like herself from “Oblivion” by sporting a stark white hair on top of a thin frame, which could be said to be the very counter-opposite of what a typical, bug-budget assassin should look like, but Riseborough delivers stoic and uncharitable traits of a character on the brink of losing herself. Christopher Abbot delivers something a little more chaotic when his conscious retreats back into the depths of his psyche only to then seep back into his mind where he stumbles to catch up on current events. The “It Comes At Night” Abbott disembodies himself not once, but twice, becoming an avatar for Tasya Vos to play, picking up where Abbot’s Colin left off, and then Abbot has to regain control, splicing Colin back into the cockpit where Tasya commands the yoke. The dueling dispositions cease being unique as one attempts to control the other in a mental and corporeal game of chess, confounding audiences of who is in control during certain scenes, especially when Colin goes into a blackout murdering spree of people Colin himself knows and trusts. As a puppeteer moving a marionette, pulling as an influential strings behind company lines, is Girder, a poker-faced agent head seeking the absolute best in the company’s interest, who finds her thimblerigger in Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh, whose experience with David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” brought a high level of cognizance to “Possessor” having been an cerebral deep virtual reality trouper previously, folds in the nerve of any level of management that would guilt someone else into doing the work necessary to get the job done. Girder opposes Tasya’s external humanity in a silent, but deadly manner by appealing to the killer instinct in Taysa, letting red flags of the out of body experience fly by the waist side that ultimately wears away at her star pupils moral conscious and turn her into a stone cold killer. “Possessor” cast fills out with Tuppence Middleton (“Tormented”), Kaniehtiio Horn (“Mohawk”), Rossif Sutherland (“Dead Before Dawn 3D”), Raoul Bhaneja, Gage-Graham Arbuthnot, and “Silent Hill’s” Sean Bean in a worthwhile role just to see if his role will succumb to a typical doomed Sean Bean character as the undesirable tech CEO.

Its safe and sufficient to say that Cronenberg’s “Possessor” is not a feel good story; the amount of tooth-chipping, eye-gouging, and throat stabbing gore takes care of any hope and ebullient energy that one could misperceive. Yet, while the disgorged grisliness stands on it’s own, Cronenberg possesses a factor of tropes that multiply the film’s bleak, icy landscape inhabited by unpleasant characters that ultimately seek and destroy the little good exhibited. The obvious theme is the disconnect from one’s own identity. Tasya Vos mental capacity nears the breaking point being an inhabitant of numerous bodies and with each callous, bloodletting assignment, Vos’ indifference for the things she should hold dear strengthens immensely drowns in the persona of another person and the psyche breaking acts of violence. Her latest assassination attempt even blurs the lines of her sexuality as her feminine body parts merge with Colin’s masculinity in one of the craziest sex scenes to date. Colin’s individuality is too threatened but from Vos’ intrusion, equating the quiet, strange behavior to a sudden vagary toward a person’s dejection, being estranged from their own life, on the outside of “Possessor’s” alternate reality of science fiction’s hijacking of one’s brain. On the subject of intrusion, a not-so obvious theme, but certainly has a strong motif, is the severe invasion of privacy. Vos’ spying on Colin and his lover for personality intel, Vos’ inspection of the entire Colin body while inside inhabiting him, and the data mining of Sean Bean’s character’s tech company, which pries itself through the optics of people’s computer cameras to garner information, such as the fabric of window curtains in this case, divulge an uncomfortable message that privacy is a luxury we are unable to ever grasp. There’s even a scene where Vos, in Colin, becomes a voyeuristic participant of a couple’s explicit sexual intercourse during data mining work hours. Despite the breadth of technology that are brimming near our fingertips today, “Possessor” has a very analog approach with dials and switches of seemingly antiquated electronic circuits, thus rendering the story grounded in nuts and bolts rather than being lost in the overly saturated and stimulated advanced tech. Beguiling with a somber serenade, “Possessor’s” a highly-intelligent work of diverse, topical qualms seeded by years of body horror and existentialism and is released into a world that’s perhaps not ready to come to terms with much of the themes it will present.

Come October 2nd* to select drive-ins and theaters, “Possessor” will be distributed uncut by Neon, implanted in the midst of horror’s biggest month of the year. Since not a physical release as of yet, the A/V attributes will not be critiques, but the film is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is under the cinematography direction of Karim Hussain, who has previously worked with Brandon Cronenberg on his debut film, “Antiviral.” Hussain adds rich two-tone coloring for a symmetry of sterilization that is, essentially, white and black with every shade of both in between tinted slightly with a dull hue on the spectrum and with the blood being that much more graphically illuminated against the backdrop. There are moments of composites that could render a person disabled with epilepsy, so be warned. The audio is a smorgasbord of a jarring ambience and soundtrack, adding to “Possessor’s” fluxing turmoil, but the dialogue discerns a little less sharply across; there was difficulty in understanding characters’ monologues or discourse who came across mumbling through scenes of fuzzy earshot. There were no bonus materials to mention nor were there bonus scenes during or after the credits. Perhaps the best movie you won’t see this year, “Possessor’s” an impressive follow up feature that reaches out beyond the outlining border of a vast and prolific filmic shadow looming over the filmmaker, but Brandon Cronenberg contrives new vitiated wonderments and is capable of casting his own umbra that would eclipse to throw light onto his soon to be seen cathartic body of work.

 

* Release date correction (9/29/20)

EVIL Expressionism in “The House That Jack Built” reviewed!


Over the span of 12 years from the 1970’s to the 1980’s, wannabe architect Jack is an accomplished engineer living in serene of the Pacific Northwest and with a lack of empathy and an internal repository of compulsive and narcissistic traits, Jack is able to be a highly successful and intelligent serial killer who seeks mastering his craft as highly artistic and divine. Over the same period of time while butchering nearly countless people, including his own family, Jack obsessive compulsive disorder not only assists his longevity of his creative expression, but also dwindles down another social expected goal of designing and engineering his own home isolated at the edge of a lake. As the body count rises, Jack compulsive restrictions loosen and he begins taking greater and greater risks of being caught. Jack narrates his voyage of viscera and macabre to a literary listener in a back-and-forth to explain and justify his murderous methods and craft.

Unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, auteur writer-director Lars Von Trier (“Antichrist” and Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 and 2″) crafts his very own artistic expression delineation with the 2018 “The House That Jack Built,” a two and half hour venture into the deconstruction of a serial killer’s personality traits as well as the flourishing experience of murder through years of repetitive brush stroke practice and self-preservation knowledge done in a self-portrait form. Graphically violent and supercharged with coarse and visually stimulating visual effects and editing, all the hallmarks of a Von Trier film, “The House That Jack Built” blends an abundance of fine arts with religion and mythology that develops into a soaring renaissance piece of art in the modern times and would inspire the most closeted psychopath to revel themselves in a heap of aesthetic and picturesque horror.

As if Matt Dillion isn’t already an entertaining and diverse actor, the “Wild Things” and “Crash” star excavates a vile and dumb luck Jack from deep within, crafting the character as so smart, he’s sometimes stupid, but with each murder subsequently gone scot-free, the confidence builds, the trade becomes tangible, and the narcism washes over ever so slightly. Dillion arcs Jack so well that the character no longer becomes the villain but an anti-hero of sorts as rooting for the slaughtering of innocents becomes a painful necessity rather than an empty desire. The titular character converses with a mysterious companion named Vergel in a way as if Jack was anecdotally telling his own biopic. Vergel symbols multiple conceptual and tangible beings, from Jack’s moral conscious to Vergil, the Augustan period Roman poet, Vergel, or Verge as Jack simple calls him, crudely interviews and thoroughly analyzes Jack’s so-called art. Verge’s off-screen presence is heartily brought to life by Bruno Ganz, an actor who once portrayed Adolf Hitler in 2004’s Academy Award nominated film, “Downfall.” Ganz takes an expected backseat to the title carrying Jack, but doesn’t succumb to being underneath’s Jack’s critical and narcissistic viewpoints, making Verge a level playing field character alongside Jack. Ganz, who passed earlier this year, is equally masterful under a relatively underwhelming role paired with pure evil and while the contrast’s magnitude should be starkly poignant, Jack and Verge are equals in the eye of the viewers and that’s how powerful Lars Von Trier’s filmmaking can really be. Jack’s chaptering stories include co-stars such as “Kill Bill’s” Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan (“Men in Black”), Sofie Gråbøl (“Nightwatch”), Riley Keough (“It Comes At Night”), Jeremy Davies (“Ravenous”), and David Bailie of “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.

In my experience with film from Lars Von Trier is that those who patron his films have polarizing affections; you either love his work or you absolutely loath his style of film. My experience consists of only one, yes one, of projects and that being “Antichrist,” and while I was not entirely enthralled with the film’s sexual themes, “The House That Jack Built” provided a plethora of philosophies to pick apart and to continue to digest even way after viewing. For those who might forego themes, philosophies, and theologies, many will bore themselves through the filmmaker’s American serial killer thriller for over two hours long, clocking in a 153 minutes, and finding themselves disoriented in a segmented tale that’s chaptered by five incidents and an epilogue over a 12 year span. Others will bang their hands over Trier’s use of repeat scenes, purposefully rolling them slow and in a calm disposition, allowing Jack to deliberate how and why he does what he does in his discussions with Verge, but these soft touches are nice pillow talk touches to the main, punchy action of Jack’s self imposed duresses under his murdering moniker, Mr. Sophistication, that palpably places the narcissistic cherry on top of misanthropic persona. The devil in the details are punchy themselves and a keystone to Trier’s overall narrative to explore the impulses of a killer’s mind. “The House That Jack Built” is a great accompaniment to shows like “Mindhunter” on Netflix or other films like “Silence of the Lambs” where serial killers vocalizes intricacies of their niche trade is very fascinating for morbid loving sympathizers.

Umbrella Entertainment releases “The House That Jack Built” onto Blu-ray home video. The full HD, 1080p, region B, uncut disc is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and is fully operational in all sense of the phrase with a generous color palate lacing through more natural lighting than assumed there would be in comparison to “Antichrist,” but the raw tone by Manuel Alberto Claro debases the stylized techniques of “Antichrist’s” Anthony Dod Mantle to virtually a hardline and graphic depiction of reality in the 1970’s. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is respectfully verbose and robust. Trier’s loquacious exposition is actually great exposition of the crystal clear kind and the director shows off his depth and range, splicing edits together like a madman that still convey the overall theme without disregarding audio accounts. While technically sound, the Umbrella release comes regretfully with no bonus features. Brilliant, musing, and intense, “The House That Jack Built” is a Lars Von Trier legacy film breathed with unadulterated violence and sharp with superb writing potent that’s potent on every level. Trier just gets better and better with every film and look forward to his next project!

The House That Jack Built on Blu-ray!

It’s in Human Nature to be Evil. “It Comes At Night” review!


Set in an infectious diseased post-apocalypse world, Paul, his wife Sarah, and their son Travis have fortified themselves in a dense forested and isolated house to ride out the easily spreadable disease. Always prepared and ever suspicious, Paul expects everyone to follow a rigorous routine, following procedures in order to avoid becoming infected, but when a young family, seeking supplies and refuge, enters their lives and their home despite Paul’s hesitations. Paul’s family’s routine and order face disruption that opens themselves up to the ever present danger outside and inside their home.

“It Comes at Night” is an intense, heart-pounding mystery thriller set inside the close quartered confines of a desolate house where trust doesn’t come without auspicious interrogation and teeth clinching suspicion. Writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ sophomore feature has layers upon layers of underlying human nature undertones when people are put up against an unsurvivable situation inevitably with their backs against the wall, literally, when confronted to whether to implement the good will nature of their humanity or not, to take that risk to help others or to save their own skin, and to attempt to reconnect with other people or stay separate from the masses. Even the “it” in “It Comes at Night” isn’t as simple as one would first think. Most unfamiliar audiences would assume “it” is a snarling, brooding, oozing, and grotesque creature, or perhaps even a devilishly grinning clown, that comes around when the sun falls; instead, the “it” is an occurrence, an event sparking nightmares inside the human mind that formulates fear and a tall order of exemplary caution.

The Australian born Joel Edgerton (“The Thing” remake) stars as Paul, the father of the family he’s trying to protect at all costs. Edgerton perfectly pitches as a, supposed, American voice, since the story doesn’t exclaim a locality, but the assumption is the setting is nowhere, U.S.A, and plants a firm foot down as a rugged resident of wilderness survival accompanied by his wife Sarah played by Alien: Covenant’s Carmen Ejogo. Ejogo’s offering to her character gives Sarah a powerful will to do what’s necessary and to support Paul in his determination to protect their only son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Edgerton, Ejogo, and Harrison opposite up well against the foreign element, another family with their performer genetic makeup of Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, and Griffin Robert Faulkner as Will, Kim, and their just above toddling son, Andrew. Each actor embraces the role in their respective family and at first, the interactions are genuinely jovial, but then the uncomfortable thick tension evolves from the point of an extreme pivot into the folds of deception and fear.

Shults maintains an ominous atmosphere of overwhelming strain amongst the characters and “It Comes at Night” has a unique perspective set inside an already apocalyptic ravaged population despite the lack visual expositions. Yet, the finished project feels incomplete. Pacing is the biggest concern with the timing of events between the introduction of Will’s family and their destined downfall that results in a climax that’s so bellied-up in an sorely anti-climatic fashion that the notion of being cheated out of a more gut-punched ending pulls at the core of the cinematic soul. That’s not to say that the film has one, if not more, interpretations; in fact, Shults’ entire feature is or could be considered open for interpretation, with examples from the duly noted “red door” to the Travis’ child-like personality, and usually those types of heavily subtext films stick around more way after the credits roll, but also, in a slightly bittersweet cause and effect, leaves more of a foggy formulation of events during the unfolding of the story. Also, an aspect that didn’t help the cause was shying away from a powerful scenes that should have left an impact, but R-rated feature delivered no acute moments of remembrance and leaving much to the imagination with only the majority of the rating pie being flavored with tasteless language.

Lionsgate Entertainment presents the Animal Kingdom and A24 produced “It Comes at Night” on a 1080p resolution in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The imagery lavishes in a gritty, woodsy detail that organically defines the sea of trees and natural flesh tones, but as the title suggests, most scenes are shot at night that are moderately blanketed, yet ineffectively intrusive, in digital noise. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix definitely has more girth during the livid nightmares and vigorously tense scenes, but, surprisingly, the dialogue track lacks gusto in the wake of a more lively surround quality. During exchanges of hushed tones, dialogue is rendered nearly inaudible and the option English subtitles had to be deployed. Spanish subtitles are also available. Special features include an audio commentary by writer-director Trey Edward Shults and actor Kelvin Williams Jr and a cast and crew discourse in a segment entitled “Human Nature: Creating ‘It Comes at Night.'” Overall, the psychological and humanity breakdown of the characters of “It Comes at Night” is worth the price of admission along with the teachings that family is key and to never rely on the goodwill of strangers, but finishes with a weak sense of direction that ruptures an unsavory cyst that doesn’t conclude coherently.

Own It Comes at Night on Blu-ray!