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 is an Oily Bullshit Artist! “The Greasy Strangler” review!


Ronnie, the owner of a Disco walking tour, works and lives alongside his hectored son, Big Brayden. Their disheveled and bigoted relationship becomes upended by the enticing Janet. With big eyes and an endless amount of sexual drive, Janet swoons the virginal Big Brayden that urges him to become his own man against a criticizing father, but when Ronnie sees an opportunity to swoop in and steal Janet under his son’s nose, the proclaimed disco king of Los Angeles ups the charm and bed’s Janet with little resistance. A back-and-forth ensues between a hopeless, if not hapless, romantic and his sexually aggressive, A-typical personality father for top dog. Meanwhile, those who even cross Ronnie in the faintest ends up brutally murdered by an inhuman killer lathered completely in grease, dubbed The Greasy Strangler, and the aberrant love triangle just might be related to the recent spike in deaths at the hands of the oleaginous murderer!

Just one big corn ball of engrossing black comedy horror, “The Greasy Strangler” is a one of a kind Jim Hosking directed film of abnormal quality and sensational crude storytelling of a father and son rivalry to rekindling with a greased up suited killer in between to connect them. Co-written with Toby Harvard, “The Greasy Strangler” marks the fourth project between Harvard and Hosking and the turnout is laugh out loud funny. The penning and pair filmmakers write scintillating characters with socially disapproving norms accepted in a cinematic universe that can only be imagined by the disturbed. “The Greasy Strangler” is the Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim version of a Wes Anderson film that can only be described as grotesque in content with an unflattering dry, if not something bathroom, humor and will not likely be accepted by the majority of popcorn audiences as their typical brand or cup of lard lavished tea. The horror element to all of this is a greased up manic strangling tourists and shearing the heads off blind car wash owners, but very much has a backseat the dynamic between Ronnie, Brayden, and Janet.

“The Greasy Strangler” revolves around the special relationship between father and son, Big Ronnie and Big Brayden. The disco passionate and pathological storytelling-embellisher Ronnie has an immensely rock solid hard on for any and all things that are greasy, oilier the better, and cathartically browbeats his adult aged son to the point of nowhere being near the parent of the year for years to come. “The Video Dead’s” Michael St. Michaels has an absolute screen presence. The Doc Brown hair and a wiry frame complete the compiled shell of a man to which a flaming ball of disgruntled and disillusioned kinetic and emotional energy calls home. Michaels’ oozing and brazen confidence equals Ronnie’s slimy thirst for internal and external grease addiction. Ronnie supports his 40-year-old something son, Brayden, ever since his wife parted ways for a fellow with ripped abdominal muscles, as Brayden would frequently state. Brayden’s the epitome of what a 40-year-old virgin should look like and not how Hollywood depicted the persona with Steve Carell. The stringy, greasy hair, unkempt physique, and a personality that’s stagnant with naïve humility, Sky Elobar (actor in the upcoming Tony Todd starring film “Candy Corn”) envelops himself as the big man child that is Big Brayden who doesn’t have much self-worth in life until a forward young woman, on one of Ronnie’s Disco Walking Tours, enchants Brayden with flirtatious eyes. Those eye below to Elizabeth De Razzo, the actress who portrayed the subjugated Stevie’s baby mama on Danny McBride’s “Eastbound & Down,” as Janet, the Rootie-Tootie Disco Cutie that causes an upheaval between Ronnie and Brayden’s already ragged relationship. From the HBO comedy series to the “The Greasy Strangler,” Razza has a knack for off-color comedy, exploiting routinely awkward circumstances to Janet’s advantage that wedge the father and son apart and amusing herself as a selfishly sexual and shameless monkey wrench. The remaining cast of colorful character actors include Gil Gex (“Dangerous Men”), Abdoulaye MGom, Holland MacFallister, Sam Dissanayake, and Joe David Walters.

Distasteful visuals enfilade the eyeballs that include one head-to-toe greased up strangler, two half naked speedo-sporting father and son duo, and three overly grotesque, if not a toon like whimsicality of genitals, but don’t worry, Ronnie’s mongoose-sized penis, Brayden’s shrimpy penis, and Janet’s afro-tastic bush are 100% prosthetics. The trade is with that is the actors are practically half nude for about half the film with Big Ronnie dangling his artificial junk from the spinning brushes of the drive-in car wash to the antiquated funky disco dance floor. In all honesty, the prosthetic take a backseat to the ingenious quirky comedy from Hosking and Harvard and with all the oddball body language, the bizarro back and forth banter, and witnessing Michael St. Michaels in a crude suit of grease is special enough.

MVDVisual and FilmRise present “The Greasy Strangler” onto a full HD, 1808p, special director’s edition Blu-ray in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio format. Shot with an Arri Alexa camera, the digital image is super crisp and benevolently engrossing despite the explicit content of the narrative. Hardly any digital noise and colors pop with full flavor. The English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is prime steak, utterly tender when chewing and overly filling when done. Dialogue is balanced at the forefront while ambient tracks are equally subdued in tandem. Andrew Hung’s complete “The Greasy Strangler” score, a genetic makeup of nerdy synthesizing discordance, could be rendered as an upstaging character in itself. Extras on the release include an audio commentary with director Jim Hoskins and stars Michael St. Michaels and Sky Elobar, cast and crew interviews about the zany narrative and their opinions on the the zany characters, and the theatrical trailer. Kooky, full frontal, and the most unique best film I’ve ever seen, Jim Hoskins’ “The Greasy Strangler” has a bold and uninhibited cast full of character and full of oldfangled taste that dovetails with a too cool for school attitude and doesn’t give a horse shit about its unconventional cinematic discourse and anatomy. A must, must see cult classic!

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