(director/writer: Matthew Holness; screenwriter: The New Uncanny by Holness; cinematographer: Kit Fraser; editor: Tommy Boulding; music: The Radiophonic Workshop; cast: Sean Harris (Philip), Alun Armstrong (Maurice), Simon Bubb (Mr. Evans), Andy Blithe (Michaels father), Charlie Eales (Michael); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: James Harris, Mark Lane, Wayne-Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones; Dark Sky Films; 2018-UK)
“Unsettling niche British horror film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The TV comedy writer and performer who created the celebrated horror spoof Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Matthew Holness, is making his writing-directing debut in this unsettling niche British horror film.
It’s a weird film that brings back memories of Eraserhead, but without Lynch’s bold craziness and wit. It’s not for all tastes, but a must see for those wanting to see the creepiest horror pic of the year.
It’s adapted by Holness from his own short story, originally published in a 2008 collection entitled The New Uncanny.
In the rural area of eastern England, the Norfolk resident, the middle-aged, Philip (Sean Harris), a disgraced children’s entertainer, is a loner who always has with him a leather duffel bag. Inside the bag is an ugly spider puppet-creature named Possum, left mostly unseen, that resembles Philip’s face. From Philip’s voiceover recitation of a children’s poem, we get a pained expression on Philip as if reliving a nightmare.
For most of the film we follow Philip walking around the Norfolk area with his bag on his back, looking depressed and having visions. Even if tossing it in the woods, Possum still is somehow back in his room the next day, hanging on the wall. We further learn the troubled man is reliving traumatic memories.
Philip is beset by strange visions (like recurring shots of black smoke looming around some colorful balloons) and has returned to live in his run-down childhood home he shares with his stepfather, the strangely hostile, yellow-toothed and creepy Maurice (Alun Armstrong), a former puppeteer. What bothers Philip is the closed door in the room, as what’s behind the closed door is what upsets Philip so much and remains a mystery to us.
The eerie atmosphere kept me chilling throughout over this strange little arthouse horror pic, that leads to the satisfying final confrontation with Philip’s nightmare (his sad childhood) that brings clarity to this dark film with the tingling odd ending it deserved.
REVIEWED ON 12/4/2018 GRADE: B+