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An independent film that feels near flawless in its simple but heartbreaking execution, “Possum” is an understated but affecting work of art.

ABOUT THE FLANAGAN FILM FEST
Near the start of quarantine, filmmaker Mike Flanagan made a list for Rotten Tomatoes of his favorite lesser-known indie horror gems he hoped people would check out while they were stuck at home. While many came to discover and fall in love with Flanagan as a result of his horror work in television, but he began his career in the indie film world, and that’s where his heart still lies. He attributes his early success due to great word of mouth for his films and support from genre fans. So, he created a list of 14 of his favorite indie horror gems of recent years that he hopes more people will see and support. In honor of Flanagan’s birthday month (May 20th), we’ll be sharing a film a day for 14 days from his indie watch list and letting you know why we think you should check it out!

Many times, when reviewing independent movies, you learn to give leniency on elements that may be lacking due to budgetary constraints rather than a fault in the filmmaking.

This leads to most films earning some comment of, “If they only had a little more, then they would have been able to do more (better acting, better locations, better effects, better storytelling devices, etc.) and really flourish.” There’s a prevalent way of thinking that, if independent films were not limited by lack of money, we’d get a much better representation of what a filmmaker is trying to accomplish.

In the case of Possum, from writer, director, and dream weaver, Matthew Holness, I can easily say it feels like the best possible execution based on what the film tries to accomplish.

Is it perfect? No. But Holness creates something that would not work any other way, or with any extra spending cash. And it is beautifully devastating.

Possum is about a disgraced puppeteer, Philip (Sean Harris), who is forced to return home and live with his abusive uncle (Alun Armstrong). However, when a boy disappears, coinciding with Philip’s return, he becomes the prime suspect. This leads him on a journey of confronting his childhood trauma, trying to hide any evidence that may be linked to him, and attempting to rid himself of a terrifying spider-like marionette called Possum.

The film isn’t necessarily scary or violent, but it is creepy and haunting in a way that only British and Japanese horror seem to be able to accomplish.

Everything is damp and grimy, which sets the atmosphere for the bleak tale we are witnessing.

While most of it revolves around following Philip over the course of several days attempting to escape his past, the “plot” of the missing boy almost becomes an afterthought to his trauma.

Sean Harris is phenomenal in this role, easily one of the strongest horror performances of the 2010s. That’s a relief considering how much of the film revolves around him and how much screen time he receives. Harris plays the role in such a way that creates so much pity and empathy for this character, even though he is an unreliable narrator.

Most movies of this nature would spend time having the protagonist trying to either prove their innocence or cover up their crime. Either way, there is typically a certainty involved; we know whether or not the character is guilty of what they are accused of doing.

In this case, however, neither Philip nor the audience by extension is certain whether he committed the horrible crime. It becomes heartbreaking watching this troubled man willingly accepting his guilt, even though he is unsure of it, simply biding time until he is caught in his never-ending attempt to free himself from his terrible creation.

Unfortunately, for many horror fans — especially in the states — Possum is not going to be an easy sell, as it is a slow burn with little substantial payoff.

Possum

There isn’t much in terms of “plot” (in the traditional sense). Instead, it is a character study; a therapeutic exercise in dealing with trauma and/or depression.

To me, it is a brilliant film and one that has stayed with me since the first time I watched it — which is saying plenty in this day and age when we are overwhelmed with the amount of content available to consume.

Holness has become a prime example of how some of the most dread-filled stories lately have come from those with a comedy background, rather than the horror-only directors.

A brilliant showcase of what can be accomplished when the independent nature of low-budget filmmaking is fully embraced rather than seen as a constraint, Possum is a remarkable achievement in the “less is more” school of intelligent storytelling. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies)

WHERE TO WATCH
In the US, you are currently able to stream Possum on Amazon Prime or VUDU Free. However, if you are able, consider doing what Mike Flanagan suggests and rent or buy the film to help make sure more amazing films like this can get made in the future. You can buy or rent it on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Video, Microsoft Store, or YouTube.

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