Empire (UK) - - CINEMA - Kim new­man

di­rec­tor Matthew hol­ness cast sean har­ris, Alun Arm­strong, si­mon Bubb, Andy Blithe

Plot East An­glia. Pup­peteer Philip (har­ris) re­turns to his boy­hood home, where his par­ents died in a fire. he wants to get rid of Pos­sum, a dis­turb­ing mar­i­onette, but it seems to refuse to be thrown away. Philip won­ders if Pos­sum is con­nected with a string of dis­ap­pear­ances in the area. Though Sean har­ris gives a pow­er­ful per­for­mance in the lead role, the break­out star of writer-di­rec­tor Matthew hol­ness’ de­but fea­ture Pos­sum — and prob­a­bly of your night­mares af­ter you’ve seen the film — is Pos­sum it­self. The cracked head of a baby doll sewn onto the floppy limbs of a gi­gan­tic spi­der, Pos­sum can barely be con­tained by the duf­fel bag pup­peteer Philip (har­ris) lugs to his cheer­less, derelict house in un­wel­com­ing coun­try­side. Pos­sum is like a cross be­tween the mu­tant Toy Story play­things and the denizens of an­i­ma­tor Jan Svankma­jer’s work­shop, but has a ma­lig­nity all of its own.

Mau­rice (arm­strong), Philip’s supremely re­pul­sive un­cle, says that pup­pets are the only thing the lad was ever good at, but it’s a stretch to imag­ine the tac­i­turn, Ptsd-suf­fer­ing, sham­bling fel­low ever work­ing as a chil­dren’s en­ter­tainer. an early scene on a train demon­strates Philip’s in­abil­ity to strike up the most triv­ial of con­ver­sa­tions with a young fel­low pas­sen­ger, and that lad’s sub­se­quent dis­ap­pear­ance (one of a string which sug­gest a se­rial killer at work) hangs heavy over the film as we won­der which of the three sus­pects (if there are ac­tu­ally three en­ti­ties in the frame) is re­spon­si­ble.

it’s also pos­si­ble the film takes place en­tirely in Philip’s mind, which would ex­plain not only the hideous pup­pet’s abil­ity to re­gen­er­ate af­ter de­struc­tion but the way time seems frozen in the 1970s world of slam-door trains and no mo­bile phones, when Philip’s ini­tial trauma (the fire in which he wishes Mau­rice rather than his par­ents died) hap­pened.

Cur­rently known as the vil­lain of the last two Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble films, har­ris has lurched un­set­tlingly for years as one of Bri­tish cin­ema’s most re­li­able off­beat char­ac­ter ac­tors. here, tak­ing a few cues from ralph Fi­ennes in Spi­der, he has lit­tle co­her­ent to say for him­self — but his in­ten­sity is un­com­fort­ably com­pelling. in a few seamy scenes, he is matched by vet­eran arm­strong, who looks as if he’s still not got over the beat­ing he took in Get Carter in 1971.

if there’s a prob­lem with the film, it’s that it’s locked in its own cycli­cal story. We’re with some­one who can’t es­cape a per­sonal trap, and rep­e­ti­tions even­tu­ally take the edge off the hor­ror. Though not a long movie, it some­times feels like a short stretched to fea­ture length. hol­ness is known for the dead­pan hi­lar­ity of the TV hor­ror spoof Garth Marenghi’s Dark­place TV show, but here plays it dead straight. he uses retro el­e­ments — the lo­ca­tions seen in those 1970s Ghost Sto­ries For Christ­mas, mu­sic from the BBC’S long-since shut­tered ra­dio­phonic Work­shop — to aug­ment the mood, em­bed­ding Pos­sum in the earthy, sin­is­ter Bri­tish film/tv folk hor­ror tra­di­tion.

verdict a dis­turb­ing, cu­ri­ously beau­ti­ful bri­tish hor­ror ex­er­cise. rec­om­mended, but with a warn­ing: next time you wake up in the mid­dle of the night, you’ll find Pos­sum at the end of the bed.

He’d go to great lengths to keep peo­ple away from his Nin­tendo 3DS.

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