“Possum”, released in 2018, has long held a spot on my watch list, and it certainly delivered on its promise. This UK psychological horror film was written and directed by Matthew Holness. The film stars Sean Harris ( Prometheus 2012, Deliver Us From Evil 2014) as Philip and Alun Armstrong (Sleepy Hollow 1999, Eragon 2006) as Maurice - Philip's stepdad. The film mainly follows Philip, who is a washed-up puppeteer. Throughout the film, he carries a large bag around with him, and the audience learns that a puppet is in the bag. We see Philip try and leave the puppet, which he calls Possum, many times throughout the film. But Possum can always come back, which sends the audience into a psychological tailspin.
Philip is currently living at his childhood home with his stepfather. The relationship between the two men is clearly strained. We see Philip consistently make himself small during interactions with Maurice. While Maurice's cruel and condescending attitude further drives Philip deeper into his inner struggles. We see Maurice put Philip down and judge his mental state. Maurice also mocks Philip about the bullying he experienced in childhood. We also learn that puppetry is a family profession, and his stepdad doesn't understand why Philip would want to get rid of Possum.
One of the most chilling parts of the film is the creepy book that Philip made when he was a child that depicted Possums origin story. We hear this as narration during certain parts of the film. This story is written in a nursery rhyme fashion and reveals that Possum will seek out orphaned children so Possum can eat them in their beds. I got chills every time the story was told in the rhyme format.
As Philip struggles with his inner demons, we learn someone in their town is abducting young men. We see Philip have an interaction with one of the local boys, who eventually goes missing. This additional plot has the audience unsure if Philip is doing these things or if Possom actually can move on its own free will. We see Philip show up at the boy's school, which Philip also went to. He is lingering outside until a principal comes out and tells him he needs to leave.
The pacing of this film is consistent throughout the 90 minutes. The mysteries from both plot lines keep you on edge for the big reveal at the end. I won't spoil anything, of course, but the end is dark and HEAVY! The skillful use of eerie camera angles and the uncertainty surrounding Philip's reliability contribute to the lasting impact of this horror film. The ending will stay with you long after the credits have ended.
Overall, Possum is a must-watch if you are into dark psychological horror. Harris' performance as Philip is so distant and connected at the same time. Seeing his internal struggle throughout the film builds for the larger reveal at the end. Having an entity like Possum adds an extra layer of concern and sinister feelings depending on if Possum is its own being or if Possum and Philip are one and the same.
7.8 out of 10 Screams