Director Matthew Holness on the films that influenced his chilling debut Possum
The Hands Of Orlac (1924)
“The old silent German expressionist films were very influential. You’ve got these characters dealing with an inexpressible emotional trauma. It was all in the visuals. They’re not necessarily stating what’s going on in the character’s head, but you’re feeling it.”
“George Romero’s Martin was a huge influence — it was such a small, quiet horror film. It’s about psychology more than anything else: that twisted, screwedup family unit playing out a madness that’s hidden away from the outside view, and that claustrophobic family insanity, which I found very interesting.”
Don’t Look Now (1973)
“It’s one of those films which reveals itself, bit by bit. That was a real help. It [taught me] that you don’t have to bombard the audience with what it all means. You have to read between the lines. That editorial style allows you to play with that. It’s all through one person’s point of view so it doesn’t have to make rational sense. It just has to make emotional sense.”
“Both Magic and Dead Of Night brilliantly use that classic horror trope: the ventriloquist dummy that comes to life. They inevitably always end with the puppeteer having a breakdown. I felt Possum needed something different. I thought it would be interesting if you took the puppeteer at the point where they’ve broken down, where most of those films end — and then start your story.” Possum is in cinemas from 26 october
Matthew Holness spoke to Empire on 18 August, a week before Possum’s Frightfest premiere. Playing possum: Sean Harris stars as tormented puppeteer Philip.