Director: Matthew Holness
Actor(s): Sean Harris, Alum Armstrong
Runtime: 1 hour 25 minutes
Although it’s decidedly not for everyone, Possum is a chilling little descent into hell with a heartbreaking lead performance from Sean Harris. It’s one of those movies (like Eraserhead) that has the aesthetic of a really disturbing nightmare and is so uncomfortable yet so hard to look away.
Harris plays Philip, a mentally ill puppeteer that returns to his childhood home after a career-ruining incident (visually this movie reminded me a lot of Spider by David Cronenberg- it even has a similar opening scene.)
With a minimum of cast members and dialogue, Philip is reunited with the creepy and malevolent Uncle Maurice and proceeds to try to get rid of his puppet- a horrifying spider-legged entity that almost possesses a life of its own and looks like something out of a Tool music video.
Maurice and Philip occasionally speak to each other, but their conversations are esoteric to say the least and leave a lot unsaid. They seem to inhabit their own dark little world, fueled by trauma and pain. Like Ralph Fiennes in Spider or Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, Sean Harris gives a profoundly strange and uncomfortable performance that crawls under your skin and stays there.
Throughout the movie I was trying to figure out whether I should feel bad for him or whether he was a predator who was enacting his abuse on other people. If you like hole-in-the-wall indie films that are more psychologically scary than traditional horror, I’d highly recommend this movie. Matthew Hollness is a talent to watch.
Here’s an article on the symbolism in this movie that I found interesting (with spoilers)