Friday, October 7, 2022

#2,830. Possum (2018) - Spotlight on England


The moment we meet Philip, the lead character of director Matthew Holness’s 2018’s horror film Possum, we know he’s damaged, that a terrible event from his past has shattered his psyche.

Played to perfection by Sean Harris, Philip is a former puppeteer who always carries around a leather handbag, inside of which is a grotesque puppet with giant, spider-like legs and a human head. Philip spends an inordinate amount of time trying to dispose of said puppet, but when he goes to bed at night, thinking he’s rid of it once and for all, he awakens the next morning to find it has inexplicably returned.

Philip lives with his former caretaker Uncle Maurice (Alun Armstrong) in the very house where, years earlier, Philip’s parents died in a fire. Haunted by the traumas of his past, which resurface following a news report about a middle school student who has been kidnapped, Philip struggles to maintain his sanity, which is rapidly slipping away from him.

As already mentioned, Sean Harris is brilliant as the meek, disturbed Philip, whose mind is so warped that we’re never quite sure if what we’re seeing is real, or simply a figment of his imagination. Equally good is Armstrong as the despicable Maurice, whose abusive mannerisms undoubtedly contributed to Philip’s current mental state (on occasion, Philip musters up the courage to stand up to Maurice, but Maurice clearly has the upper hand on him through most of the film).

Complementing the performances is the meticulous, deliberate pace employed by director Holness, who builds a sense of foreboding and dread that gets stronger with each passing scene, and those moments when the hideous puppet seems to come alive are easily the film’s most frightening (it’s a shock each and every time it returns).

As with many recent entries in the horror genre, Possum is in no hurry to reveal its secrets (why is Philip traumatized? Why can’t he rid himself of that puppet? What did he do to become a pariah in his neighborhood?), but with the fine work turned in by cast and crew (including a haunting electronic score composed by The Radiophonic Workshop), I was more than willing to wait for the payoff, and even though said payoff wasn’t exactly a surprise, it proved as satisfying as the journey itself.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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