THE PUPPET MASTER
Garth MarenGhi creator Matthew holness on duMMies, doubles and dark places in his debut horror feature Possum
Can you spy him deep within? LittLe possum. Black as sin.” that’s a line from the creepy poem that runs through Possum, the deeply disturbing horror debut from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace creator matthew holness. the film began life as a short story, when holness was asked to contribute to an anthology called The New Uncanny. as the writer/ director explains, “they were asking various writers to look at Freud’s theory of the uncanny and reinterpret some of these basic human fears for a modern audience. so i picked the fear of dummies and the fear of doubles. i liked the idea of combining two of them.”
the film stars sean harris as philip, a disgraced children’s puppeteer haunted by the presence of his terrifying puppet, a monstrous creation with giant spider legs and a version of his own face. “the idea of a puppeteer making a puppet that was a complete double of themselves was frightening in a different kind of way,” says holness, “because so many of the ventriloquist dummy stories, they’re often a creepy-looking puppet, but they don’t really resemble the puppeteer. other ventriloquist puppet films, they have a psychological breakdown at the very end of the story and i thought it would be interesting to start my story where they’re already broken down.”
holness is justifiably proud of his puppet monstrosity. he elaborates on its creation: “i’d read about the Halloween thing, where you put a blank face there and the audience will bring their own subconscious fears to it. and i think that really works in this case, because [designer dominic hailstone] sculpted a version of sean’s head which wasn’t really doing anything and suddenly we were like, yeah, this is very, very creepy. Because you can’t tell why it’s being creepy, it’s not doing anything, so you’re forcing yourself to wonder why, what’s its expression, and that’s when it became a very frightening puppet for me.”
it’s fair to say that audiences who are more familiar with holness’s comedy background really won’t be expecting Possum. and that’s just fine with holness: “i’d like to just make horror films now, really. in all honesty, i’ve got absolutely no interest in doing comedy anymore. there are no rays of light in this film, there’s not a single joke, there’s no light in this very dark tunnel.” in other words, holness’s Possum is the ultimate dark place. Be afraid.
Possum is in cinemas from 26 October.
Veteran British actor Alun Armstrong also stars.