One of last year’s most impressive horror films, and a personal highlight from London Film Festival, was Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor. A visceral and thought-provoking body horror in the vein of his father’s work, it’s a film that we’ve gushed about in the past – and with its home media release arriving February 8th courtesy of Signature Entertainment, today we’ll be having a look at the special features available on the Blu-Ray, which enrich Cronenberg’s fascinating film.
This section contains several eight minutes of footage that didn’t make the final cut, ranging from scenes of Tas (Riseborough) visiting a futuristic medical centre to discuss her losing control of her identity, to further scenes of her in Colin’s (Abbott) body during her mission. As with the rest of the film, they’re characteristically stylish and sleek, with the only disappointment being that they aren’t available to view in conjunction with the rest of the film.
A Heightened World: The Look of Possessor
This featurette takes a deeper look into the landscape crafted in Possessor, paying attention to the production design and world-building. Interviews from the cast and crew explore why the film is set in an alternate 2008 – very different from the one we actually got – and how director Brandon Cronenberg crafts a minimalistic sci-fi landscape that fits the grittiness of the film. Every intricacy is considered here, from the design of the vapes that characters use to the clutter they keep in their homes, and how old cars are used to create a timelessness aesthetic.
Also explored is the vivid colour palette used in the film, alongside technical aspects designed to disorient viewers, like the twisted camera angles. There’s a wonderful discussion of how locations were chosen, particularly the illustrious mansion owned by Parse (Sean Bean). Yet surely the most fascinating aspect is the extent to which in-camera effects were harnessed to make a film that’s certain to age very well, with some brilliant discussion of how the production team bypassed the need for CGI by using sound waves to create effects that most filmmakers would artificially produce.
“It’s a very strange, strange, weird, beautiful world.” – Christopher Abbott
Identity Crisis: Bringing Possessor to life
This featurette takes a deeper look at the thematic basis of the film, particularly around the idea of identity, and the extent to which either of the leads actually retains their identity throughout the film. It starts from the writing stage, with Cronenberg detailing the impetus behind the project, to the casting of Riseborough and Abbott.
Exploration also takes place of the fluid gender roles within the film, considering how this adds a layer of nuance not only to the performances, but to the narrative as a whole, which is arguably the most fascinating element of this featurette. Abbott and Riseborough also very articulately discuss how they had to tailor their performances to fit the body-imposter theme, leading to some vivid insights into how Cronenberg used not only the script, but the direction, to navigate this.
“In Brandon’s work, he explores the psychological through science fiction.” – Andrea Riseborough
The Joy of Practical: The Effects of Possessor
Here is a very deep dive into how the body horror elements of Possessor were achieved, led by Dan Martin, the Special Makeup Designer. It’s very clear how much Cronenberg values in-camera effects, from the set design to the more visceral moments, and his passion shines through in the intricacy with which this was achieved.
For a film that thrives off its more brutal moments, it’s illuminating the see these moments come to life on-set, and Martin’s expertise in the field – having previously worked on the Human Centipede franchise – proves absolutely crucial in helping Cronenberg bring his visual to life. This is arguably the best feature on the disc, thanks to its insight into such innovative practical effects, with the crew all wanting to push boundaries of what can be done in-camera – but be warned it has spoilers for the film’s most impactful moments, so this is one best left for after your initial viewing.
Short Film by Brandon Cronenberg
Last up on the disc is a short film from Cronenberg, entitled Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences As They Come to You, made in 2019. It’s a perfect fit for this release as it plays with a lot of the same themes as Possessor, particularly identity, as a hospital patient, Emily (Deragh Campbell), has her innermost dreams and nightmares explored – which brings out plenty of body horror and existential dread. It’s a very abstract and visceral nine-minute film that wonderfully complements Cronenberg’s portfolio, and has enough shocks and visual whimsy to make the disc a must-buy, if for anything, just to see what his other recent work is like.
Signature Entertainment presents Possessor on Digital HD 1 February and Blu-ray and DVD 8 February 2021.
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