Possum (4 stars)


Horrifying, meticulously crafted fairytale from Matthew Holness, starring Sean Harris

From the creator and star of cult 2004 TV series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, Matthew Holness, comes a disturbing debut feature that recalls the exquisite craft and unnerving rhythm of Bernard Rose's Paperhouse, David Cronenberg's Spider and David Lynch's Eraserhead.

It unfolds, mostly silently, with a fuzzy logic as a disgraced puppeteer takes a physical and psychological journey back to his childhood home in Norfolk. Unearthing what lurks in the shadows and in the tormented mind of its protagonist, it places you smack bang in the middle of it all with little explanation.

Sean Harris stars as Philip, who is terrified of something hidden inside a big, brown leather holdall. Whatever is in the bag (a terrifying, handmade work of art) has started to creep out and haunt him, just like the time spent with his wicked stepfather Maurice (Alun Armstrong) in his youth.

Searching for Maurice, he enters a crooked, scorch-marked house, with the grubby and lingering imagery mimicking his stepfather's threatening demeanour and indelible imprint. There's even a sinister recurring poem that can be heard over shots of arresting wilderness and wasteland, or as Philip traces his fingers across a personal scrapbook full of drawings and clues.

Harris is a dab hand at playing anxious and insular characters, and here he adopts the awkward gait of a man who has lost control. He moves his arms and legs in such a mechanical way it's as if his body is being operated by the callous hand of a marionettist. Armstrong is an overbearing menace, who cackles and coughs like a chain-smoking witch; you can almost smell the noxious fumes emanating from his tar-stained teeth. With Possum, Holness has constructed a dark and twisted contemporary fairytale, designed to confront the impact of neglect and abuse.

Limited release from Fri 26 Oct.


  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 1h 25min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Matthew Holness
  • Cast: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Simon Bubb
  • UK release: 26 October 2018

Philip (Harris) is a man who travels back to his childhood home in Norfolk, where he’s terrified of something hidden inside a large leather holdall. Holness’s debut feature is a disturbing and beautifully crafted contemporary fairytale, confronting the impact of neglect and abuse.