Only Possum, black as soot.
Mother, Father, where to tread?
Far from Possum, and his head."
Possum is a 2018 horror film and the feature film debut of Garth Marenghis Darkplace creator Matthew Holness.
A slow, atmospheric film. Possum tells the story of Phillip (Sean Harris), a disturbed puppeteer haunted by his past, who returns to his childhood home following an apparently disastrous performance (the details of which are never disclosed to the audience). The house has been owned by his crass and unpleasant Uncle Maurice (Alun Armstrong), who essentially raised Phillip after the latter's parents were killed in a fire. Phillip spends much of his time at home trying to rid himself of Possum, a ghastly spider puppet he created that has come to embody all the emotional baggage in his life. Unfortunately, Possum doesn't seem to want to go. And things get worse for Phillip when a local boy goes missing and people begin pointing their fingers in his direction.
Possum contains examples of:
- Animal Motifs: Foxes and spiders, but not possums.
- Beast with a Human Face: The Possum puppet, which resembles a Giant Spider with a human head.
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Now, there are many things you could call that hideous puppet, but it is most definitely not a possum.
- Creepily Long Arms: Eight of them!
- Creepy Doll: Creepy puppet, but still.
- Daylight Horror: Several terrifying sequences, including a nightmare chase scene, occur during the daytime.
- Drone of Dread: Most of the film's score, provided by The Radiophonic Workshop, qualifies. It's extremely effective.
- Giant Spider: Not a real spider, granted, but the effect is precisely the same.
- Jerkass: Maurice seems to relish whenever Phillip comes home just so he can mock and belittle him. The ending reveals that the extent of his cruelty goes far, far beyond simple jerkassery, however.
- Jump Scare: Not many, but when Maurice rushes out of a dark corner, revealing that He Was Right There All Along, you really aren't expecting it.
- Kids Are Cruel: Phillip is made to recall some traumatic bullying in his childhood.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane / Clingy McGuffin: Philip attempts to dispose of Possum several times but somehow the puppet always inexplicably finds its way back to him. Whether this is all just a product of Philip's damaged psyche or if Possum does indeed have some supernatural element to it is never really explored.
- Minimalist Cast: Most of the movie focuses on Phillip, Maurice, and Possum, if you can consider him to be an actual character. Most other characters have only a couple minutes of screentime at most.
- Mirror Scare: At one point, Phillip glances into a mirror to see Possum's head sitting on his shoulders.
- Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: The Possum book that Phillip made as a kid, which has some extremely eerie, Stephen Gammell-esque charcoal drawings and ominous.
- Noodle Implements: The exact nature of the green sweets that Maurice keeps offering Philip goes undisclosed. Philip seems reluctant to eat them so they may have some sinister purpose and there are some small hints that they could be drugged.
- Noodle Incident: Philip was evidently disgraced as a puppeteer following a disastrous show, however the details are never fully revealed. Likewise, the details of the fire are only vaguely hinted at. In general, there's a lot this movie does't tell you about the backstory.
- Nothing Is Scarier:
- Half of the film's horror comes from the dread of waiting for something to happen.
- We also never learn exactly what happened at Phillip's show...
- Personal Horror: A lot is implied early on, but at the end it's confirmed that Maurice abused Philip as a child. Possum was just a coping mechanism.
- Perverse Puppet: Possum is far and away one of the most horrifying puppets to be committed to screen in recent memory. Even Maurice seems disturbed by the idea that Phillip would show it to children.
- Psychological Horror: See "Personal Horror" above.
- The Reveal: Phillip didn't kidnap the boy; Maurice did. In fact, Maurice has been doing so for years, and has forced Phillip to keep his mouth shut ever since he was a child.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Phillip is clearly pretty mentally unwell, and the film's disorienting editing and frequent Nightmare Sequences leave the viewer very uncertain of how much of what they're seeing is really happening.
- Rule of Symbolism: The film sure does love shots of Possum's long, spindly feet creeping slowly into frame. Following the implication that Maurice sexually abused Phillip and particularly considering the way Phillip reacts in horror at the sight of Maurice' fingers, it is clear that Possum was meant to represent Maurice and that the spider legs were a deliberate aesthetic choice meant to evoke his uncle's horrifying digits.
- Spiders Are Scary: Just look at that poster!
- Villain Protagonist: Subverted. We're initially lead to expect that Phillip is a dangerous murderer and/or child molester, but at the climax we learn that he's actually the victim, and that Maurice is responsible for the crimes in both the movie's backstory and present.