Puppeteer Philip (Sean Harris) returns to the desolate rural town of his upbringing, intending to slay his demons by destroying Possum, the bizarre, spider-shaped figurine he carries everywhere, which has a strange hold over him. But on returning, he finds his estranged stepfather (Alun Armstong) still in residence, another presence from his past who seems to be an equally domineering presence. To escape his nightmare Philip will have to confront both of them.
Writer-director Matthew Holness is best known for satirising British Gothic in his comedy series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, but humour is jettisoned here for this deeply disturbing and singular psychological horror. From Darkplace though, Holness does retain his reverence for classic British horror, shooting in the bleak Norfolk flatlands of classic ghost stories like A Warning to the Curious, and enlisting the Radiophonic Workshop to provide the eerie score. And in line with such films, Holness favours subtle, implied and ambiguous horrors over explicit shocks and gore, with the film building an atmosphere of growing dread through the interplay between Harris and veteran performer Armstrong (Get Carter, Braveheart). For the most part it's Harris' show, though, and fans of this creepily crow-like character actor will admire him in this all-too rare leading role.
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Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film
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Featuring Sean Harris
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Directed by Matthew Holness
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