Mathew Holness is the TV comedy writer and actor who brought us that tremendous horror parody of Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. Now he’s making his feature film debut, directing a hair-raising film set in remote Fenland Norfolk, adapted by Holness from his own short story, originally published in a 2008 collection titled The New Uncanny, alongside work by Nicholas Royle and as Byatt. he’s deadly serious, but he carries with him an echo or ghost of how this same material could have been interpreted as tongue-in-cheek black comedy.
possum is an intensely english movie, and like the recent ghost stories by andy nyman and jeremy dyson, it pays homage to a classic spooky atmosphere that our national cinema used to give us from the end of the war to the mid-70s There is also a little nod to Stephen King. maybe it doesn’t make much sense to talk about “folk horror” because all horror is folk horror. the genre is atavistic and anarchic. everything depends on turning what we expect from rational modernity and what is manageable psychologically and technologically. this film induces an eerie chill, like a bullet going through the back of your head, and there are some jaw-dropping visuals. but I was wondering if it was left unfinished and disappointing in the end, and if its inexplicability might have worked better in a more compressed short film in a collection of trunks, like the ealing dead of night movie.
The scene is a dreary country town in the swampland of East Anglia. Philip, played by Sean Harris, is a very strange looking man who arrives by train, apparently fleeing from a terrible misfortune. Harris often plays dark and unsettling roles and this one is no exception: his fierce and pained face conveys fear and frightening at the same time, a realistic mask of Halloween loneliness. he could be practically any age, between 20 and 50 years old. Philip is carrying a zippered bag that contains the main character of the film: the one who gives the film its title. There are strange and hallucinatory scenes, glimpses of the future or past, or possibly a delusional and imaginary present, in which Philip goes to a secluded forest, places the bag in a hidden nexus of tree trunks and unzips it. something profoundly hideous with a worrying number of legs stirs inside.
philip trudges toward a shabby, dilapidated house, evidently his childhood home. everywhere he is seedy and dirty. the row of hooks by the front door holds a school bag and also a jump rope. (whose was that?) However, the house is far from unoccupied. Philip’s ghastly Uncle Maurice is in residence, played with delight by Alun Armstrong, a greasy, unshaven, lairous beast of a man, and one who witnessed all the unhappiness and bullying Philip experienced as a child. /p>
Crucially, Maurice is a former puppeteer and seems to have imparted some of his puppetry skills to his scowling nephew. “Puppetry is the only thing you were good at…” he drawls with a Fenland accent. and what is in philip’s bag seems to be such a creation. or is that it? Shortly after Philip’s arrival, a 14-year-old boy is reported missing in the local press. maurice wonders if philip had something to do with it. Philip wonders if what he has in his bag has something to do with it.
Holness has cunningly discovered some wonderfully deserted East Anglian locations for this film, giving the scenes an almost post-apocalyptic quality. there are disused railways, crumbling bridges, huge flat swamps. these places are rarely radioactive. there are also disused military buildings emerging from the ground like crashed UFOs. I loved the sheer, banal starkness of Philip’s back garden, which contains what looks like a plastic water jug on its side. at another stage, we visit an empty-looking train station whose halls have a green and gold color scheme from an earlier era. everything has that musty, gassy English light.
As for the sinister opossum, it’s a very frightening invention, interestingly living in Philip’s mind partly in the form of nursery rhymes he has jotted down in that well-known horror standby, the boy’s obsessive scrapbook of creepy writing and drawings. the opossum might have taken some inspiration here from the babadook. however, something in me expected an even more sensational performance in possum’s third act, some more narrative progressions. After a sharp turn, Holness cryptically breaks the story. we are left with an oppressive ambient chill.