Monster Fest 2020: POSSESSOR

2020 is looking up with the return of Monster Fest to Melbourne. The festival of horror, gore, trash, and midnight madness was originally postponed due to COVID-19, but Melbournians rallied, followed the rules, wore their masks, and said “No, COVID, we want the best horror movie festival in the world to come back to the city.”

On December 3rd – 10th that’s exactly what we’re getting. Back in its home, Cinema Nova, Monster Fest is back. Tickets are available here: And as a special treat, I got an early glimpse at one of the movies playing this year: Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor.

Body Horror: Something for Everyone

Body Horror is a universal horror. After all, we all have a body, we all feel pain, we all don’t want our bodies contorted into nightmarish shapes and broken apart. Not everyone believes in ghosts, or finds slashers intimidating, or worries about the wolfman, but body horror gets its hooks into all of us. After all, the scenes that caused the fainting spells in The Exorcist weren’t about demons and devils; they occurred when the movie showed a medical procedure in a hyper-realistic fashion.

Monster Fest 2020: POSSESSOR
source: Neon

Possessor takes a new look at body horror with a plot about shady assassins that steal bodies to do their work for them. Tasya Vos is one such assassin. Her agency tasks her with killing contracts by taking possession of an unwitting and unwilling party, who is then controlled by Vos into committing the murder and then committing suicide afterward. For investigators, they get a murder and a dead murderer. It’s open and shut.

The problem is that Vos has begun to lose control of her subjects, and can’t seem to keep control of them for the suicide phase of the mission, which we see in the movie’s opening as she is forced to improvise a suicide with the help of armed police officers. When she is tasked with killing the CEO of a major company by inhabiting the body of the fiancée of the CEO’s daughter, her control begins to slip even more, and a battle for the control of the host body begins.


The Cronenberg apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Brandon (son of David), shows his father’s propensity for mindfuck narratives and intense violence. Possessor does not flinch from showing blood and gore; in fact, it revels in it. What better way to show the unraveling of an assassin’s psyche than to have them dispense with a gun in order to use a fireplace poker for the kill instead? And for movie violence aficionados, this has something for everyone. Teeth trauma? Check. Eye gouging? Check. Close up of stabbing? Check, check, and check. Blood flows in torrents and people die badly.

Monster Fest 2020: POSSESSOR
source: Neon

Filmed with a minimal amount of CGI, Possessor looks great and is a throwback to practical gore effects of yesteryear. Coupled with some stomach-churning sound effects, some of the scenes in this movie begs to be watched from between your fingers. It also creates a feeling of wondering how the filmmakers are going to top what they’ve already shown us, and they don’t disappoint. The stakes and violence rise with the movie into a bloody climax. The movie screams to be seen in a cinema with a group of flinching cinema-goers, all laughing uncomfortably but refusing to look away.

Riseborough and Abbott

Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott are fantastic as the two leads. For most of the movie, Abbott is playing himself possessed by Riseborough, and he does it without quirks or showiness. He simply acts like someone trying to fit in while always being a step behind everyone else. Abbott, excellent in 2020’s Black Bear, takes over the movie for the second half and gives a great performance as a character losing his mind and fighting to force out the titular Possessor.

Monster Fest 2020: POSSESSOR
source: Neon

Riseborough is incredible as Vos. She is not the usual look for a movie assassin, dressed in drab clothing and looking more like a suburban mum than a highly paid killer. Much like Abbott, her performance isn’t showy, but in her quiet moments, she manages to exhibit so much about the burdens of spending time living in someone else’s mind and body for the sole purpose of ending lives.


Brandon Cronenberg crafts an excellent sharp and deadly narrative that neither drags nor feels bloated. Every scene propels the story forward, and the only time the movie slows down is for surreal nightmare sequences as the two minds battle for dominance. Considering this is only Cronenberg’s second feature, there is a confidence with his choices that you would expect from a veteran, which bodes very well for his future movies.

Outside of the two leads, the supporting characters played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Bean are both excellent, with Bean playing against his usual heroic role for a mean bully of a CEO, and Jennifer Jason Leigh playing the role of surrogate mother to an assassin as though she is the boss of a small business just trying to make it in the big wide world. Possessor is a nasty, surreal, sci-fi horror movie that is going to linger with you long after it’s over. And I mean nasty in the best possible way.

What do you think? Is Brandon Cronenberg a worthy successor of David? Let us know in the comments below!

Possessor is now available to rent on VOD.

Watch Possessor

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