Los Angeles | Making a horror movie in 2020 is not the least of the challenges: you have to be able to compete with a devastating pandemic, outbreaks of anger over racism and police brutality, not to mention one of America's most tense election campaigns. Of the history.
For Brandon Cronenberg, son of legendary director David Cronenberg, coming up with an ultra-violent narrative of white-collar assassins taking control of their victims' bodies using cutting-edge technology seemed more relevant than ever.
“When you see Russia's interference in the American elections, I think you are just starting to realize what it means to live in a society entirely on the internet,” says the author of Possessor Uncut , which comes out on Friday.
“In a way, we are all susceptible to being hacked, and there is no way to escape it. It's today's society and it's going to be interesting, and perhaps terrifying, to see where it takes us, ”said Brandon Cronenberg.
This sci-fi horror thriller film follows hitman Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) as she takes control of her victim, played by Christopher Abbott. Using a brain implant, the killer forces her, unwittingly, to embark on a series of bloody assassinations to eliminate the CEO of a firm with methods worthy of Big Brother, played by Sean Bean ( Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones ).
Distributed by NEON (at the origin of the success of Parasite , winner of the last edition of the Oscars), “Possessor Uncut” was very well received by critics despite its scenes of sometimes extreme and very explicit violence.
Hardened critics were startled when it was presented at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
“Violence in movies should be visceral and disturbing; it's more unsettling for me to see an action film banned for children under 13 where a hundred people die without shedding a drop of blood, ”Cronenberg explains.
“If as a filmmaker you don't take violence seriously, then you trivialize it. I think it's a more dubious attitude than explicitly showing this violence, ”says the Canadian director.
“Killing of privacy”
In Possessor Uncut , the universe is a slightly modified version of our world, where advances in neuroscience make it possible to “take physical control of the brain through electrical impulses”.
A grim, creaky take on modernity and technical advancement familiar to fans of the Black Mirror series, which has “become a genre in its own right,” says Brandon Cronenberg.
One of the Black Mirror episodes imagines the police investigating murders by literally downloading the memories of potential witnesses from their brains. In Possessor Uncut , the technological possession operated by the assassins “is a metaphor for this kind of surveillance”, according to the director.
The forty-something wrote his film when Edward Snowden, a former employee of the United States intelligence services now considered a whistleblower, revealed the intrusion of these services into the privacy of his fellow citizens.
“I was very angry about the technology killing privacy, and the fact that governments wanted to violate privacy so badly,” Cronenberg recalls.
For viewers familiar with his father's work, the ultra-violent scenes of “Possessor Uncut” will come as no surprise.
A pioneer of the “body horror” genre based on disturbing bodily scenes, notably with La Mouche , David Cronenberg is also the author of the very controversial Crash mixing sexual excitement and morbid fascination with automobile collisions, which won him an award at the festival of Cannes.
The actors of Possessor defend the bias of this graphic violence in the film, which they consider justified.
Andrea Riseborough qualifies her as “honest”, while understanding that others may not understand this approach.
“I expected to receive more hateful reactions”, meanwhile conceded Brandon Cronenberg.