Stars: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong
There’s a genuine sense of dread pervading Matthew Holness’ feature debut, a psychological horror picture that elevates it above the mere pastiche one might have anticipated from the creator and star of cult series ‘Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place’. Sean Harris is Philip a disgraced puppeteer returning to his remote home in Falmouth, Norfolk. He is haunted by Possum, a monstrous puppet he keeps in a brown leather bag. Destroying Possum, who may be the incarnation of Philip’s psychosis, proves harder than anticipated. His situation is worsened by visits from his tormenting sinister stepfather Maurice (Armstrong, who seems to be channelling the late, great Freddie Jones). Meanwhile stories on the news tell of the abduction of a local child. Seasoned character actor, Harris, invests his character with real pathos, while Armstrong is suitably grotesque and menacingly ingratiating as the wicked stepfather. Adapted from a short story by the director, the film’s aesthetic, all saturated colours, foreboding forests with finger-like twigs, and dark nursery rhyming dialogue, looks to Amicus and Tigon British horror pictures of yore, as well as the more disturbing Public Information Films which traumatised many a child in the 70s. The feeling of dread is compounded by a score by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, all atonal retro synthesisers and sinister woodwind. Ultimately it’s a little overlong but the sense of unease and disturbing imagery will endure.