Movie Review – Possum (2018)

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Possum. 2018.Directed by Matthew Holness.Starring Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong.SYNOPSIS: After returning to his childhood home, a disgraced children’s puppeteer is forced to confront his wicked stepfather and the secrets that have tortured his entire life.Matthew Holness, the UK mastermind behind cult favorite Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, ushers us into a parallel reality of unsettling weirdness in Possum. Arachnid Mother Goose tales, AMBER alerts, undefined candy jars – there’s nothing typical about this psychological horror meltdown. Smacks of Jim Hosking quirkiness (The Greasy Strangler/An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn) are butchered and separated as Holness opts to savor the trimmed meatiness of anthropomorphic nightmares. “Little Possum, black as sin.” A beckoning limerick that ushers forth this dreadful-as-fuck crossover between Roald Dahl and Mr. Rogers with existential artistry torn from Samara’s The Ring cassette.Sean Harris stars as Philip, a disgraced children’s puppeteer who returns “home” to his unsavory stepfather. He totes a brown canvas bag, its contents a terrifying marionette referred to as “Possum.” It has long spider legs, but no abdomen and a doll’s rounded white head. In a matter of descriptors, imagine one godforsaken nightmare sidekick. Philip attempts to dispose of “Possum” – burning, drowning, bashing – but the dummy returns each morning. Can Philip confront the repressed memories of his childhood and overcome “Possum?” A milk-carton boy may be lost forever if not.It’s hard to pinpoint when Possum flips from uncomfortably nestling under your skin to invading conscious sanity. Holness’ brand of horror is holistic in that it’s not felt until completely overtaking all senses. What starts with cigarette-burned opening credits, black balloons, and depressed shuffling around dilapidated structures descends into bleary-eyed frights. No sense of myopic strain when exploring the cracked canyons now present in Phillip’s deteriorating mind. As much a creature-feature as it is character study rooted in innocence lost, bottled secrets, and the incomprehensible pain of addressing everything at once.Holness lays connecting tracks piece by piece as Possum progresses, none of which are apparent at first. What a unique experience to find oneself confounded and lost only to conclude with destabilizing clarity. Head-scratches give way to a reward of riches for those clued into details first presented with arthouse ambiguity. Maurice (Alun Armstrong) and his gangly fingers, Possum and its stalk-like appendages. Words uttered from Philip’s grim novelization of “Possum.” Flashes of latter-acts haunt Philip’s dreams as a representation of the inevitable, paid off in a way that acknowledges the film’s jumpy jazz-riffing off horror imagery. Cerebral, crazed, and spiked with a toxin that inebriates steadily over time.“Possum” is creepy-as-all-hell, especially for a non-spider lover as myself, but Sean Harris is 100% the grandest seller of Holness’ tale. Torment plasters a sour grimace on his face, but intentions are near-impossible to decipher. Dialogue is sparse – Maurice and Philip trade freakish riddles – with so much relying on Harris’ physical disgust or crippling anxiety attacks when attempting to destroy “Possum.” These moments – silently unhinged, blankly contemplative, ruled by insanity – make Philip damningly hard to read (minus the film’s all-revealing conclusion). Harris snivels and stutters and facially emotes in a masterclass conveyance of biblical breakdown proportions.Cinematographer Kit Fraser demands mention given his work framing “Possum.” A shadowy alley, light breaking from around the corner, camera fixated – then one leg. Number two reaches around ever-so-slowly. Limbs like weeping willow branches land with exaggerated steps that mimic a puppet’s unnatural gate, which only ensures more hair-raiser appeal. Where Philip first lifts his bag from the forest floor, eight tree branches emerge half-and-half from the ground on both sides to create a spider’s framework. For minimal locations, Fraser makes the most of mirrored reflections, riverbed fields, and moldy bedroom interiors. A remarkable strength of composition.Possum isn’t meant for everyone and certainly doesn’t delve into comedy like Matthew Holness’ previously scripted farces. Turmoil manifests itself in many ways, including a puppeteer’s unsettling library read-along act about “Possum” coming to eat and smother any child without a mother. Sean Harris battles physical and emotional demons to the full spectrum of his acting talents, and Holness enjoys the fruits of unbridled build-ups morphing into an ending that burrows deep into your gut. Experimental, expressive, sometimes too scattershot, but a necessary watch for genre fans who crave something far off the beaten path.Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).The post Movie Review – Possum (2018) appeared first on Flickering Myth.

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