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Wednesday's Weekly Watch: 'Possum" (2018) directed by Matthew Holness

The Introduction:

Symbolism used to portray trauma is often hard to perfect; many directors and screenwriters seek to make it easier to grasp by using too obvious of clues, excusing the audience of their duty to search for the metaphor. Others will try and hide the meaning so far beneath mountains of unintelligible word vomit that the only way to decipher such symbolism is through a video essay on youtube. There is rarely a film that straddles the line between obvious symbolism and indiscernible garbage to an acceptable degree, but I believe Matthew Holness's 'Possum' (2018) not only met those standards, but exceeded them.

The Review:

'Possum' is unique in many ways, most of which I aim to touch on in this review, but one way that really stuck out to me was it's casting, or lack there of. The film only has two major characters: Philip, a disgraced puppeteer played by method actor Sean Harris, and Maurice, Philip's uncle-turned-father figure played by classically trained actor Alun Armstrong. While at surface value, it can seem like a difficult task to create a captivating film with only two major roles, Holness uses inspiration from early silent films such as 'Nosferatu' (1922) to create eerie and unsettling scenes with no dialogue that still manage to keep the viewer's attention.

Credit: Wikipedia

Much of the film's dialogue occurs between the two main characters, Philip and Maurice. Philip was orphaned at a young age, and it was later revealed that his parents lost their lives in a house fire. As traumatizing as it was for Philip to lose his parents, he was shown no mercy after Maurice became verbally, physically, and sexually abusive towards him. This pushes Philip to leave his childhood home as soon as possible. It's unclear what influenced Philip's desire to become a puppeteer, whether it was from his own ambitions or from some sort of influence from Maurice, but it led to the abhorrent creation whose name is the title of the film, Possum.

Possum is a grotesque puppet; one with the body of a spider and a head that very closely resembles Philip's face. As an ignorant viewer, it makes sense to us as to why Philip would want to get rid of it. However, Philip has more reasons than just Possum's ugly appearance for wanting to discard him.

Credit: IMDb

Our introduction to Possum is where the theme of trauma is first seen in this film. Although an obviously inanimate puppet, Possum keeps reappearing no matter how many times Philip attempts to throw it away. Philip's inability to shake the puppet is symbolic of his inability to shake the trauma that shaped him. Possum causes Philip extreme fear and excited that can't be escaped, and only seems to worsen when discussed with Maurice. Ultimately, 'Possum' is a film about letting go and rejecting trauma disguised as a cryptic horror.

The Rating:

'Possum' shocked me with how much I enjoyed it. As a lesser known horror film, I felt as if I would have heard more buzz about a low budget film that exceeded expectations. 'Possum' lands a 7.7 out of 10 on my rating scale, which is an awesome score for a director's debut film such as Matthew Holness's.


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