POssum i Matthew Holness visits a very Darkplace…
You pick what frightens you,” reasons Matthew Holness, writer-director of Possum. One of the creepiest films you’ll see this year, it began life as a short story for an anthology reflecting on Sigmund Freud’s theory of the uncanny. “They asked all the writers to pick some of what Freud highlighted as universal human fears.”
So what did Holness do? Choose dummies and spiders in this tale of Philip (Sean Harris), a disgraced puppeteer who returns to his Norfolk childhood home to face his demons. That’s two major fears for the price of one. “I don’t like spiders – I find them creepy and the way they move is very unpleasant,” he says. And dummies? “I’ve always found those frightening.”
Another element liable to make viewers uneasy is his leading man, recently back as
the villain in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, going full-on weirdo. “Sean is great at playing characters you don’t necessarily like initially. And you certainly don’t know what they’re about. He’s brilliant at inhabiting characters that a lot of other people would baulk at.”
Inspired by black-and-white silent German expressionist films M and Nosferatu, Possum is the flipside to Holness’ most famous work, 2004 cult sitcom Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, in which he played the titular horror author. It’s yet another example of how steeped he is in the genre. “The thing I liked most about doing Darkplace was creating the narratives Garth was creating.”
While there was a spin-off with co-star/creator Richard Ayoade’s character – Man To Man With Dean Learner –a Garth feature never got off the ground. “Richard and I wrote a script, but in all honesty it wasn’t very good. We’d written our best stuff by that point!” Maybe Holness could slip into Marenghi mode one more time to present a Q&A for Possum? “I think the days of Garth are long gone.”
Sean Harris as a puppeteer facing his past.