It's Day 4, sadly the final day of Telluride Horror Show, and it ended on a spectacular note with what we were able to cover. But before we get to that, it's worth giving out kudos to THS putting everything they could into the virtual experience. They understood we would all miss the in-person Telluride experience, so they ensured that everything would be as rewarding as possible. We still got plenty of interview content and personal prefaces from directors and actors, as well as the classic tradition of Creepy Campfire Tales. They even modified the animated intros to the short blocks to match their theme! Tie it all together, and the evidence of effort is clear. Thanks, THS for making an unfortunate situation as best as it could be! Well, as I wipe the tear from my undead eye, let's get to the final reviews from me!
A mysterious corporation uses a consciousness-transferring technology to transport the mind of an assassin into a "fall guy" in order to take out targets and remove any trace from the company. When a job goes awry, one tortured assassin must fight for control of the inhabited mind and her own consciousness before she is lost forever.
Possessor is a movie I have been dying to see since the synopsis and director were first spoiled years ago. Brandon Cronenberg, son of iconic body horror director David Cronenberg, takes the reins in this scifi-horror/thriller and brings much of the same style that his father brought to the screen, while still building a vision all his own. The psychosexual and body horror concepts are prevalent, but Brandon's own unique, evanescent approach adds a thick atmosphere upon the grotesque imagery.
The plot calls for a unique eye because of the abstract sequences within the mind. Visually conveying elements of the consciousness is a tall task for any director; trying to build a dreamlike aesthetic while still making it digestible and coherent. Brandon achieves this with near-flawless execution, utilizing techniques similar to his father's, while also creating his own fresh perspectives. The disturbing imagery balances well with reality to develop a tense and surreal world that we get to explore in a purposefully imbalanced ballet of bloody chaos and dry calm.
As Brandon is both writer and director for this film, I dare now to challenge the two against one another. If I were forced to choose at mind-controlled gunpoint, I would say Brandon's writing currently exceeds his directing skills. It is a tight enough race, but the two are still noticeably distinguishable for me. There is breadth and depth, symbolism and foreshadowing, brilliant dialogue and superb balance of the imbalanced. But there are still moments in the cinematic delivery that can drag and skip. The moments are few and far between, and Possessor is near-perfect, but there were a couple of moments that felt too somber and tedious. I attribute some of this to an effective, but unoriginal score. The music fit well throughout the runtime, but it also felt too familiar with other films that fit a similar mold of seemingly transcendent decades that particularly recall the 70s and 80s.
Occasionally, Brandon's visual ambitions exceed coherence, but not necessarily in the ways one might think. Where the consciousness combat is sensible enough, the thick nuance and metaphors throughout, particularly when it comes to various subplots that affect the motif of our two primary characters, can get lost and leave a little too much for interpretation or additional viewings. The best films require additional viewings in order to catch every minute detail hiding in the film, not to make the film more coherent. There is a bit of congestion in this area of the film, but not so much that it is frustrating, just enough that it can cause perhaps, unnecessary convolution. (As Efrit put it (not in so many words), it should be more like an ad lib and less like a redacted government document.)
But take such critiques with a grain of salt. The film as a whole is a powerful and disturbingly invasive film that breaches your mind almost as effectively as the fictional technology on screen. The acting is unbelievable, with notable performances from Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott. They took a fantastic script and carried it with care and reckless abandon at the same time. The mood is palpable, and the exhibition is tight and properly dispersed throughout the plot. The symbolism and metaphors are wonderfully crafted, further exemplifying the emotional struggles of our leads. It does a great job of building a bleak and intriguing world while retaining a nasty beauty with brutal violence and bizarre imagery. In a single thought...it is what I was hoping it would be.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 8/10
Day 4 Coverage
I also had the privilege of catching up on a few other curated pieces throughout the day today, and I wanted to highlight those below:
Hail to the Deadites - A documentary detailing the obsessive fans of the Evil Dead franchise and the conventions they attend...including interviews with actors from the franchise, including the man himself, Bruce Campbell.
As with many documentaries of a similar ilk, there is a lot of heart present throughout this film. Even the sarcastic bravado facade of Bruce Campbell was lightened some with a few introspective moments he has had with fans. There were even a couple of tear-jerkers, including a proposal and a man's recounting of the loss of his young son who he named after Campbell's famous character, Ash.
It was funny, enlightening, and heartwarming...not all things you expect from an Evil Dead movie, but exactly what you get from a documentary centered around the fans of said movie. It's not a blockbuster documentary in terms of revealing skeletons in closets or even spending much time on the technical productions of the films, but it does give a face (or two or three) to a cult fanbase that has charm and character.
50 States of Fright: Red Rum - This Quibi Original anthology series features 50 horror tales, one for each state...and this story tackles Colorado and the infamous Stanley Hotel - the setting for The Shining.
The 50 States of Fright anthology is by far the greatest thing on Quibi. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the tales released thus far, and that includes Red Rum, though it does lack some of the originality and style of most of the other entries. It retains that campy approach that many of them have, but the plot plays out a bit predictably with the "supernatural takes vengeance on jerk teens that have no respect" routine. The effects, scares, and laughs are all great horror fun, though. If you haven't checked out Quibi, be sure to at least give it a shot for the 50 States of Fright series!
Red Light - A group of punk teens with a lack of respect are taught a violent lesson.
This short plays out like a horror PSA on how not to treat those less fortunate than you...and to quit using your social media accounts and smart phones as an excuse to be soulless jerks. The message is familiar, but as Efrit and I discussed following the short...horror does its best work often enough when it's used as a vehicle for social commentary, and the young generations' obsession with social media presence and a lack of real-world accountability is worth exploring in the horror genre. And this short does so effectively, if a bit abruptly.
Well, that's it...another THS in the books, and another gradual, depressing realization that it is 362 days until it happens again. This year featured some incredible shorts and feature films that I won't soon forget or fail to recommend. As is the case every year, there are moments of genuine fear, laughter, and thought-provoking perspectives...and we already can't wait to see what THS comes up with and brings us next year! And hopefully, the wait will be all the sweeter when we're able to meet in person again in Telluride itself! But, again, kudos to THS for making the best out of a compromising situation and giving us all a great festival to enjoy safely!
See you all next year for our coverage, but feel free to check us out occasionally until then...we post reviews year-round!