Returning to his childhood home, a disgraced children’s puppeteer, Philip (Sean Harris) is forced to confront his wicked stepfather and the secrets that have haunted him his entire life.
Directed by Matthew Holness, it would be a grave error coming into Possum believing it will share any of the levity and rapier wit he’d previously brandished in Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. Instead, Possum shares a cloak of malevolent dread with the likes of David Cronenberg’s Spider (2002) and this year’s Ghost Stories, directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. This is a film about the whispers of neighbours, long-buried secrets, the disappearance of children and the cold, bleak possibility of the existence of monsters. A profoundly claustrophobic psychological Horror, Holness sculpts in damp and decay, in mournful loneliness and despair.
The entire premise hangs on the shoulders of Sean Harris. Philip is a pitiful man with a coal-black past. Riddled with self-doubt and anguish, he fits in perfectly with the desolate landscape of home. Tortured by visions of his creation come to life, he sees the silhouette of his arachnid puppet everywhere. Feeding on fear and fractured memories, the hideously creepy “Possum” isn’t even the most terrifying beast Philip must face.
As horrifying as the aesthetic is, the amalgamation of Kit Fraser’s cinematography Charlotte Pearson’s production design, Alexandra Toomey’s Art Direction and The Radiophonic Workshop’s audio design is paralysing at times. Reminiscent of the morose soundscapes of Geoff Barrow’s band, Beak> and Clint Mansell’s score for High Rise, there are echoes of the 1970s, of a battered and breaking Britain and the sonic signatures of a generation who grew up on Quatermass, Doctor Who and Hammer Horror. Months from the screening and I’m still drawn back into the melancholic world Holness created.
Steeped in rhyme, rot and an indelible performance from Sean Harris, Possum is a slow trickle of ice cold water down your spine. It’s a haunting experience that isn’t for the nervous or intensely empathetic. It will prove divisive and those who don’t jive with a purposefully stark and slow-going experience will likely find it frustrating but I adored every sickly, sorrowful second.
Possum is released in the U.K. on Friday 26th October.
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