A review of one of 2018’s more overlooked horror movies

For fans of the horror spoof show ‘Garth Marenghie’s Dark Place’ the name Matthew Holness may be familiar. However, anyone expecting the same species of keenly observed parody and comedy in the director’s feature length debut, Possum, are in for quite a shock.

Centred around the struggles of a man suffering the effects of PTSD and his battle to rid himself of the horrific puppet he carries in a brown sports bag, Possum is about as far from the tongue in cheek pastiche of Dark Place as it is possible to be.  

Instead, Holness’ debut is a dark and brooding piece, which maintains an atmosphere of looming dread for the duration of its run time, giving centre stage to a puppet so curiously malevolent, it makes Chucky look like a Carebear.

Featuring an intense performance by Sean Harris, the plot follows disgraced children’s entertainer Philip, as he returns home and attempts, in an increasingly tormented struggle, to lose, destroy and even burn the malign marionette.

Despite Harris’ engaging performance and support from Alun Armstrong, who is perfect as the protagonist’s brilliantly sinister and repugnant uncle, the film’s true star remains the eponymous puppet itself. Possum, a simple, but viscerally unsettling design that recalls the work of Paula Rego, is comprised of a gaunt, humanoid head, attached to sprawling spider’s legs. Though it doesn’t sound like much, the striking visual is enough to make the flesh of even non arachnophobes creep.

Director Holness’ use of broad and desolate landscapes to show the isolation of the character is a technique as old as horror itself and is here brilliantly contrasted with the claustrophobic grime of Philip’s home.

Holness attempts to show the cyclical nature of self loathing and doubt through repetitive and disorienting scenes and dream sequences. This does tend to make the film drag in the middle, leaving the viewer with the sense of a plot which could have unfolded over a much shorter time, stretched beyond the reach of its content.

It is however, well worth sticking around for the film’s conclusion, in which the root of Possum’s wicked hold on Philip and the particularly disturbing relevance of his creeping limbs, are revealed.

Though not a world beater, for fans of subtle horror and creative use of unsettling imagery, Possum is a definite winner.

Eleanor Sciolistein