Peter (Sean Harris), a children’s entertainer, returns to his isolated home on the Norfolk coast following some terrible incident. He spends his time exchanging terse words with his uncle (Alun Armstrong) and wandering the countryside looking for a place to bury his horrifying puppet, Possum. Possum, on the other hand, may have other ideas.
Matthew Holness has created a truly terrifying psychological horror film. We are trapped within Peter’s frightening reality. Harris plays his with child-like vulnerability and there’s something of a disturbing fairy tale about the film. Alun Armstrong, on the other hand, is a grotesque figure reminiscent of The League of Gentlemen. The two have chemistry worthy of Dr Frankenstein.
Holness proves ably capably of startling abstract horror sequences as the truly gruesome puppet stalks Harris through the bleak English countryside. There’s something terribly British about this particularly folk ghost story. Broad marshes and dilapidated corrugated iron structures form the landscape of Peter’s torment.
These moments of terror punctuate the otherwise slow narrative that deliberately builds tension and malice. The loneliness of the main character and visceral nature of his inner demons recalls Cronenberg’s Spider. Holness says he wanted to create the modern equivalent of a silent horror film. The long sequences of Peter silently exploring the environment recalled Carl Theodore Dreyer’s Vampyr.
Possum is a menacing journey through a troubled mind. It’s a haunting psychological horror film that takes it’s time but delivers sheer terror in abundance.