British filmmaker Matthew Holness cut his teeth as the creator, writer, and eponymous star of cult dark comedy show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. When discussing his debut feature, Possum, at Frightfest 2018, he was quick to note there are zero moments of levity contained within. And, boy, he wasn’t kidding.
The flick stars Britain’s greatest acting secret, Sean Harris, as a lonely, isolated, and disgraced (for creepily undisclosed reasons) puppeteer who returns to his dilapidated childhood home to finally dispose of the titular creature; a horrifying, spindly-legged thing with a head modelled on the actor’s own.
Holness wisely leaves most of Possum‘s horrors unexplained. Even the puppet itself is barely glimpsed right up until the end of the movie. It makes everything in this already nightmare-inducing world — drained of all colour by the harsh but beautiful cinematography — so much worse, because you can never quite get your footing.
Even the synopsis, from Frightfest, is devilishly suggestive:
After returning to his childhood home, a disgraced children’s puppeteer is forced to confront his wicked stepfather and the dark secrets that have tortured his entire life. A supernatural horror combining the stark psychodrama of George A. Romero’s Martin with the uncanny terror of Dead of Night, Sean Harris gives a tour-de-force performance as Philip in this bleak and understated exercise in creeping dread. Informed as much by silent cinema expressionism, the British classics The Innocents and Don’t Look Now, and the claustrophobic suburban Gothic atmosphere of Pete Walker’s Frightmare, Possum will terrify in the best shock corridor tradition.
Directed and written by Holness, the film’s skeleton cast includes Harris (featuring, for the most part, alone with the puppet), Alun Armstrong, and Simon Bubb. It is truly terrifying, make no mistake. It will haunt your dreams.
Wicked Horror caught up with Holness at Frightfest 2018, in London, to discuss his debut feature, if there was anybody he even considered for the role besides the great Sean Harris, and where the horrifying idea for Possum actually came from.
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Interview conducted by: Joey Keogh
Camera: Richard Waters
Editing: Richard Waters