The indie thriller “Possum” won’t spark a new horror franchise.
Nor will the movie, on home video Feb. 12, be embraced by the masses. It’s too quirky, slow moving and unconventional.
All by design, to be clear.
It’s still a chilling experience capped by an emotionally explosive finale.
Veteran actor Sean Harris (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”) overacts in a way that some horror films demand in “Possum.” He plays Philip, a distraught puppeteer traveling to his old stomping grounds. He reunites with Maurice (Alun Armstrong), a grubby man living in the even grubbier home where Philip once lived.
And still owns, let’s be clear.
Their connection, initially, is murky. What’s obvious is the tension on Philip’s face and the sourness behind Maurice’s every syllable. The former appears to be dying inside. As for Maurice, he’s too busy luxuriating in every drag of his cigarette to care.
Philip isn’t technically alone, though. He’s brought his caramel leather satchel with him. Inside lurks Possum, a hideous spider puppet he keeps trying to destroy … with little luck.
FAST FACT: Matthew Holness praises modern horror directors like James Wan (“The Conjuring”) but found inspiration for “Possum” from German Expressionist horror films.
The plot is hardly the main attraction in “Possum.” Writer/director Matthew Holness, a veteran comic actor, brings so much texture to the film it almost upends it. The music. The decrepit home Philip visits. The look on the puppeteer’s face in every closeup.
Just the way Harris carries the satchel is unnerving. It doesn’t dangle by his side. He carries it with purpose, as if something could break free in it at any moment.
It’s a horror fan’s delight, at least for a while. The story couldn’t be much thinner. Nor could the central mystery holding things together.
— Dark Sky Films (@darkskyfilms) January 31, 2019
A dozen questions pile up like papers in a billionaire’s “in” box. What is Philip running from? Could he be responsible for the missing teen mentioned on the news? Why is the bond between Philip and Maurice so ice cold?
Be patient. You have to be, while Holness trots out every unsettling visual he can uncork. He even finds his inner “Babadook,” using a children’s rhyme to make Possum’s back story even creepier.
It’s hard to believe that’s possible once you eyeball that puppet.
It all adds up to a fiendish experience, but one that sputters in the second half. It’s a good thing Armstrong is so perfectly revolting. He’s a father figure sans empathy, a monster lurking under his dirt-encrusted skin. He’s scarier than Possum, and that spider puppet is sickening to behold.
The film’s tone is set early by The Radiophonic Workshop, the outfit that makes music for the BBC’s “Doctor Who.” The score is disturbing and euphoric, skittish and cold. In short, it’s darn near perfect for the material in play.
The flaws in “Possum” suggest a horror auteur still sharpening his vision. Who wouldn’t want to see what Holness has planned for us next?
HiT or Miss: “Possum” isn’t for everyone, especially those addicted to horror movie “kills” and other genre conventions. It’s still as creepy as any film you’ll see this year … or next.