October 30, 2018 Possum (Movie Review)
They say that you can never really go back home. Things change. People grow up. Failures happen. But what if going back home is the only option? What if in order to make peace with oneself it is the only answer? With that in mind, making his directorial debut, Matthew Holness brings Possum to theaters and on digital platforms as of Friday, November 2, 2018 thanks to Dark Sky Films.
Clocking in at 81 minutes, the story of Possum follows Philip (Sean Harris: Harry Brown 2009, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation 2015), a disgraced children’s puppeteer that is down on his luck and has no where to go. He heads back to his childhood home, but it is now a dilapidated rotting house that does not appear to be fit for human habitation. With him he only carries a large brown leather duffel bag with his part human, mostly spider puppet that continues to haunt him.
His wicked stepfather, Maurice (Alun Armstrong: Krull 1983, Eragon 2006) still lives in the home. Maurice, just as dirty and off putting as the house, obviously has a tense relationship with his son. Continuing to taunt Philip about his failures and his childhood, the down and out puppeteer quietly takes the verbal abuse. Trying to release his past by quietly walking through it and attempting to get rid of his humanoid spider puppet, eerily the puppet continues to reappear.
Furthermore, Philip’s presence in the town begins to stir controversy and whispers; this is especially true when a teenager that he had interacted with goes missing. Essentially alone trying to sort himself out, will Philip ever find a way to move forward in his life? Will he find the courage to finally confront Maurice for the things that happened in his childhood, or is Philip simply destined to remain lost and alone?
Possum is all about the atmosphere. The overall color scheme is dark, dreary, and there are no bright spots present in this film. As mentioned, Philip’s childhood home appears to be simply an abandoned house that he chooses to stay in. The wallpaper is yellowed, and the flooring appears to be stained and decades old. The yard is over grown, and a few windows are boarded up. Even the sheets on the bed he sleeps in looks as though they have been unwashed for years. All of this points to something not being quite right. It is almost as if the home represents Philip and in extension Maurice’s personality. Both are alone and stuck in the roles they had from decades ago.
Adding to it all, the humanoid spider puppet is quite interesting. For those that are terrified of spiders its continuous appearance will allow for the fear to seep into the bones. The spider plays the ultimate role; constantly playing possum and pretending to be harmless when in fact, it is anything but. Every time Philip attempts to move past everything in his childhood, he attempts to get rid of the puppet. The puppet always finds a way back somehow though. The puppet’s continuous reappearance is a signal that Philip is still not ready to move forward and face the past that haunts them. A brilliant technique, it allows you to understand what is going on psychology without shoving the information down their throats.
That said, the most compelling part about Possum is how little it gives the viewer. A film that moves at a snails pace, it allows you to have the creeping sensations of unease and dread. There is not much action or dialogue present and you must try to fill in the blanks on what is actually going on and what just might be flowing through Philip’s mind. On one hand, at times this technique does cause some boredom, but mostly the viewer is so unsettled that the need to know what is really going on with Philip remains strong.
A slow burn, the conclusion of Possum makes the rest of it worth it, but let’s not give that away. Suffice it to say, the end will make the rest of the non-action and sparse dialogue come to a complete circle. It creates such a broad terrifying picture that you will hold the sense of dread and unease for a while after the credits roll.
Overall, Possum is not the film to watch if action and constant dialogue is what you are looking for. It is a film for viewers that wants to feel uncomfortable and think deep thoughts. After all, what makes it successful is the lack of information and the powerful visuals. It is for these reasons that CrypticRock gives Possum 3.5 out of 5 stars.