Monday, October 31, 2016

#586: Possession

1981, TSPDT Rank #659

I've watched this film twice now. The first time I was mostly disgusted and annoyed with it (even as a long-time horror fan); partially because of the sick and twisted psycho-sexual gore on display throughout, but possibly even more so because of the almost unbearably aggressive histrionics displayed by its two principles (Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill). However, on my second viewing I went into it with a much less passive mindset, fully prepared to meet its delirious insanity head-on. And I have to say, it's quite something. You're unlikely to find anything else quite like it (which probably explains why its passionate followers are so faithful to its cause), and the performances given by Adjani and Neill are nothing short of awe-inspiring once you tap into their uniquely primal wavelength.

David Cronenberg's early films are probably the film's closest relatives (see Shivers and The Brood), but Andrzej Zulawski takes Cronenberg's detached Canadian body horror and endows it with a manic boost of frenzied emotional horror never seen in Cronenberg's work. The oft-cited hypothesis that sex and horror are inherently related is Zulawski's guiding principle here, and the net result is nothing if not convincing - at least until the inexplicable ending sequence. At this point, Zulawski flies head-first in a paranoid no-man's land which even the film's most devoted fans seem to be at a complete loss to explain. Nevertheless, while it is hardly coherent on the surface, the ending somehow comes off as a thoroughly haunting and unnerving nightmare - the perfect conclusion to the events which preceded it, despite its essentially illogical nature. It could also just be that the film drags you along into its own sea of madness, breaking down your defenses until the insane seems to make some sort of sublime sense. Whatever the case may be, Possession is quite possibly the ultimate dividing line between casual horror fans and those who are more seriously entrenched in the muck and mire of humanity's deepest fears.

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