Matthew Holness has been a big staple of British comedy for years. His work in the celebrated c cult TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace has made him legendary.
With that said, his comedy has always been tinged with darkness. Now he has dove straight into a murky and terrifying world with his directorial feature film debut Possum.
Starring Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong, Possum is the delightful tale about a disgraced children’s ventriloquist. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say delightful? I meant deeply, deeply, disturbing. After Phillip is shunned for an unknown controversy, he is forced to go back to his home, now a derelict and warped place. In it houses Morris, a grim and terrifying figure from Phillip’s childhood. In a brown bag lives a puppet named Possum and as childhood secrets start to come to the surface, as does Possum. Can Phillip escape the horrors that lay in front of him?
This gripping horror story plays like a demented fairy-tale and is perhaps this year’s most unsettling film. Possum is an intimately discomforting movie that’ll have you shuffling in your seat, looking for some sort of escape. Relying on shadows and the sheer horrific look of Possum, Holness’ gripping film will have your toes curling with every second up until the finale which is by far some of the year’s most profoundly horrifying sequences to ever grace the big screen.
Sean Harris is a particularly spectacular actor here and has a way of balancing a battered innocence with the stature of a possible antagonist. As we’ll never know the reason behind Phillip’s return home that murky past lingers and makes him an unreliable hero to follow. Yet broiling underneath his looming character is a man who lost his childhood and as he is battered with horrific memories, this innocence comes to the foreground. It’s a nuanced and spectacular performance by Harris.
Alun Armstrong is terrific as Morris. His character has no discernible likeness about him as he scoffs food and smokes fags in a pit of a home. Morris’ exact relation to Phillip is unknown but you can see he has taunted and ridiculed the young man for years. Armstrong makes perturbs and inhibits this monstrous role like the greedy Stromboli of Pinocchio – playing the strings to a revolting conclusion.
Possum plays with creepiness at every corner, particularly in set design and location. Abandoned army barracks, swamp lands that stretch beyond your eye, and a forest of But really, it’s Phillip’s childhood home that has been left to rot that sends the shivers. It’s not even the brown and peeling wallpaper or the smoke stains on the wall – years of muck and neglect caking bygone patterns of yesteryear. It’s the surreal layout of a large house that holds it’s secrets firmly behind closed doors. A perfect playground for Possum and Phillip’s undoing.
Possum may play fast and loose with our sleeping patterns but it also has a mournful soul. It’s an intricate, if albeit terrifying, portrayal of abuse that has warped a mind. Possum is one of the most uncomfortable and nightmarish films of 2018.
Possum is out in cinemas now!