As Vos progresses with her final mission, the near-assimilation of her already-fragmented self with the identity she forcibly assumes culminates in the most stylized violence, and Vos interprets these impulses as primal urges. However, as Vos cannot keep a steady hold on who she is, how can she separate core impulses from borrowed ones? Things become especially ugly when the quintessential possessor starts feeling trapped inside another body instead of feeling liberated.
The reason why these violent aspects of “Possessor” — both explicit and implied — hit harder than run-of-the-mill stabbing and gouging is that the film expertly uses practical effects to grant a more tactile quality to these moments. Cronenberg talked about the process in an interview with Seventh Row, explaining the essential difference between CGI and practical effects, and how the former feels “a bit floaty” and doesn’t quite hit the same:
“I like practical effects, especially with on-screen violence. The benefit to CGI is that it frees up choreography, and you can have these sort of long, one-shot action sequences, but I always find something a bit floaty about CGI blood. It doesn’t really have the same impact. So I knew we were going to have to use prosthetics and puppets.”
Cronenberg went on to talk about collaborating with effects and makeup designer Dan Martin, who helped create the fake heads that were used for the squashing and stabbing. A particular scene in which we get a closeup of needles entering the scalp was created with the aid of “normal-sized scalps with really well-punched hair,” while a probe lens was used to intensify the visual experience. While Martin’s creative ingenuity helped bring these visceral sequences to life, Cronenberg used melts and fades to achieve the surreal, out-of-body aura that permeates the film’s most memorable scenes.