Icky and unsettling, this British horror film crawls under your skin.
You’d expect a bit of oddness from the feature-film directing debut of Matthew Holness, the cowriter and star of British horror parody TV series Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. And oddness ye shall find: Possum is a very different beast to Dark Place—it’s tongue is nowhere near its cheek—and it shows that Holness can make something seriously unsettling without the relief of laughter.
Sean Harris plays Philip, a lonely, troubled middle-aged man. Everyone regards him with suspicion, particularly when a boy goes missing. The one person who can bear his company is his only relative, Maurice (Alun Armstrong), a yellow-toothed taunting creep. As he wanders through his bleak life, Philip carries a bag containing something he calls the possum, a terrifying puppet that we first see as shadowy spider legs, before it reveals its full nightmarish being. He wants to get rid of the possum but it won’t be abandoned.
It’s a quiet storm of a performance from Harris, who spends most of the film alone. We’re not often let into Philip’s mind with words, but through Harris’s face. He conveys a man who’s trying to escape a past that keeps chasing him down. Holness firmly captures the feel of ’70s British horror—the oppressively close atmosphere is so powerful, you can almost smell the damp. It’s a new kind of dark place for Holness, one that lets absolutely no light in.
Cast and crew