Possum (2018) with a Q n A Session with Writer/Director Matthew Holness (2020): ‘Looking into Horror’ – A Film Experience Review


The Prince Charles Cinema offers many little gems in cinema. Offering many different films from history and contemporary, but occasionally, they’ll excitingly include speakers. Filmmakers joining us in on the screenings and answering questions, a unique moment to gain their comment and input more personally than just the film itself. Possum is the brainchild of Matthew Holness, having written, directed and produced the film, based upon his own short story. His attendance gave greater insight into the industry as well as the creative process and specifically, exactly what was going on within the minds of the story and characters of Possum.


The Mood

This little horror film had a lot of potential from the start. It boasts its atmosphere, it takes care with its shots and does not rush moments. Allowing it all to build for you. But these commendable aims are clearly much higher than the films ability. There is little dialogue as these atmospheres build and that works for Possum for the most part. Unfortunately, when we do have dialogue we have pretentious sounding poems or the overt descriptions of what we can see, spoon feeding us into their intentions. For a film largely devoid of dialogue this is so surprising. That they’d pull their punch right at the end. This is unfortunately backed by a lot of the film’s imagery, teasing us and keeping back from the darker moments that the film wanted to explore. A contradiction backed by the director commenting that he’d worried whether he’d gone too far, only to say that you can’t hold back from reality – though he evidently found a way. Show not tell is the age old mantra, yet for horror there is too much put into ‘the jaws approach‘.


Carrying the Film

Many would comment on the performance of Sean Harris within the film and rightly so, he has a strange presence in the film, which is clearly intentional; but the film isn’t quite sure what to do with him. He’s not given the moment to build a character, and worse still the likability to carry the film. Said to be for ambiguity, but it leaves a massive distancing effect between the spectator and the film’s narrative. Which builds us to one of the biggest problems of the film. In 85minutes, Possum manages to be boring. It is clear that it’s based upon a short story, feeling like it should have been a short film, but pushed to be feature length non-the-less. Films can be slow, build atmosphere but there needs to be something to engage us.



Possum will be memorable, but it is for images that work better as photos but not as a placed together film. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the script and direction just can’t carry this film. Wasting talent where talent clearly lies. Also worth mentioning the use of score by The Radiophonic Workshop. Powerful sounds using age old sounds that disturb but there is a sense in which it just placed upon the film, almost missing its points for the awkwardness of the atmosphere attempted. It’s a shame, listened to separately there could be music there. It is a wonderful opportunity to get to hear the filmmakers thoughts and it helps engage you with the film. Apparently based upon psychological ideas, but never really wanting to engage in that subject matter. That makes sense, the film lacks any particular depth apart from: bla, it’s creeppy isn’t it?



A man, haunted by his past, finds he has to confront it once again, mostly in the form of his nightmarish Doll/Spider.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Possum (d. Matthew Holness UK 2018)


Further Reading




Matthew Holness Interview

Sean Harris Interview

Matthew Holness Second Interview

Matthew Holness Read an Extract


If you liked this

The Nun (2018): ‘Hollywood’s Contemporary Horrors’ – A Film Review

Happy Death Day 2U (2019): ‘A Step Back in Horror Filmmaking’ – A Film Review

Brightburn (2019): ‘A Super Hero Horror’ – A Film Review

This was an analytical review of….


Possum (d. Matthew Holness UK 2018)

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