Disgraced children’s puppeteer Philip (Sean Harris) returns to his childhood home, which is still occupied by his nasty stepfather Maurice (Alun Armstrong). Arriving with a bag in his hand containing a puppet called Possum, Philip tries to rid himself of the grotesque creation and face up to his troubled past. His return home coincides with a young boy going missing in the area and suspicion starts to fall on him as the person responsible.
Possum is the feature film directorial debut from Matthew Holness, who is best known for his work in comedy as a writer and actor. The film couldn’t be further from a comedy and it’s perhaps one of the bleakest I’ve seen in quite some time. Unfolding at a snail’s pace with a narrative that jumps all over the place to confuse and disorientate you, Possum is essentially a two-hander where Philip’s puppet is a symbol for his troubled past.
Much of the film sees Philip wrestling with himself. He desperately wants to remove the puppet from his life but after several attempts to do so, he continually retrieves it. Holness uses Philip’s tie to the puppet to demonstrate the difficulty he has facing up to and moving on from the past that centres around his repulsive and wicked stepfather. How the puppet looks is something I won’t reveal here but it is the stuff of nightmares. To describe it to you would be to do a disservice and I wouldn’t want to lessen the impact of it.
Holness really does paint a very grim picture with Possum. The locations are dilapidated and run down, the mood very low and there’s a sense of nastiness that runs through the whole film. The further the relationship between Philip and Maurice is explored, the sicker to your stomach you’ll become. The climax, which is all too brief, is a very harrowing 10-minutes and the abrupt end leaves you with an unpleasant feeling.
The performances of Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong are very good. Harris communicates mostly through his facial expressions while Armstrong clearly relishes getting to grips with his despicable character. The two share very little screen time together but it’s the moments where they do, that the film really soars.
Possum got rave reviews during its festival and theatrical run. I was left a little less enthused about it. The pace was very, very slow and I felt the same story could have been conveyed in a much shorter duration. Holness has a good eye for direction but for me, there simply wasn’t enough here to sink your teeth into. There are a couple of good jump scares but this isn’t the out-and-out horror you may expect going in.
Cast: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong Director: Matthew Holness Writer: Matthew Holness Certificate: 15 Duration: 85 mins Released by: Spirit Entertainment Ltd Buy Possum