Possum (2018) – Film Review

A Temporary Glimpse into the World of Possum (2018): An Absolutely Gripping Fever Dream of a Film.

All Bones, No Meat

I like my films how I like my sexual encounters; confusing, without context, and unsure of what’s going on for the majority of the time. A wise man (me) once said media is best experienced when you have the least amount of context going into them. No trailers, no spoilers, just a cool-sounding title and a summary of a few sentences to spice up your interest. So when it comes to the 2018 film Possum, directed by Matthew Holness, here it is:

A small talking man, aged by torment, has returned to his childhood home after serving in the military. After his service, he takes up puppeteering, but it doesn’t go too well. Maybe because his puppet is a giant disgusting, wound-ridden spider with a human head, glass eyes, and a hundred-yard stare. The house he returns to isn’t empty though; when he arrives he finds his filthy uncle Maurice has been living there for some time now. The plot revolves around dream-like montages of our dear puppeteer Philip returning to different places significant to his childhood as he attempts to figure out the secrets of his past and the house he now lives in.

There’s your summary. That’s ALL you get. Go watch it, it’s fantastic, I gave it 4/5 stars (that’s a high score from me). If you feel intrigued but don’t care about spoilers, or if you’ve already watched it, stay for a bit while I go into detail about this film, and probably end up digging deeper than necessary.

*TRIGGER WARNING: This film includes themes of abuse and sexual assault. If you are uncomfortable with these concepts or themes please don’t watch/read about this film. If you or someone you know is dealing with abuse trouble and need help, call this number:
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline – 800.656.HOPE (4673)
Thank you and enjoy the rest of the review.*

 

!!! SPOILER WARNING !!!

All Meat, Boneless

Alright sweet, now that we’ve thinned the herd a little bit, let’s talk about this movie.

Possum (2018) follows what I would call “dream logic.” Numerous scenes of the film happen out of order or with fractures in between, with the camera taking a break from what’s really happening to Phillip and instead catching a shot of some yellow and orange balloons beginning to smoke up, black rain pouring from the sky, and seeing that dreadful Possum puppet everywhere he goes. Possum is filmed in such a way that it gradually reveals more and more of the horrifying Possum puppet to the audience, representing Philip’s reawakening demons as well as both the audience and Philip slowly beginning to realize that Uncle Maurice has more to do with his trauma than Philip thinks.

Some shots seem to be glimpses into Philip’s memory, showing places he’s been in before, just empty with no one else in them. The film doesn’t have many human characters in it, making it seem just as lonely as Phillip is. However, that isn’t to say that the film lacks character; Sean Harris (who plays Philip) delivers a haunting performance that keeps a tight grip of your attention through the entirety of Possum’s 85-minute run time. Speaking of acting, Harris’ movements throughout the film are very reminiscent of child-like mannerisms and insecurities. Looking over his shoulder while he runs away nervously, sweaty hands held together in front of him like a toddler would when anxious from potential danger, curling up into the fetal position and crying when feeling threatened and whining like an unwanting baby when confronted. These all contribute to the ever-present truth of poor Phillip’s corrupted innocence, which is fed to the audience generously throughout.

What Does It Mean?

On the topic of symbolism, this film is full, simply bursting with it. If you like shots of random things representing other aspects or themes found in the movie, you’re in luck because this film has TONS of that. Here’s a quick list of all the symbols that I could find on the first viewing:

  • The yellow and orange balloons floating inside a children’s room represent Phillip’s original childhood ignorance, while the black smoke enveloping them represents the death of his parents (from the fire that Uncle Maurice started in Phillip’s house) as well as the corruption or ‘blackening’ of childhood innocence.
  • The nursery rhyme, “Mother, Father, what’s afoot? Only Possum, black as soot” bridges the gap between the purity of his younger years and the hell he now endures every day, walking around trying to live while being haunted by his past, feeling the eyes of his abuser on him at all times.
  • The black rain pouring from the sky, tainting everything it touches with its necro-colored pollution, is a symbol of Phillip feeling that his whole world is being overcome by insanity.
  • The immortal fox which can be beaten until dead and rotten, but somehow always stands back up and walks away, is a symbol of the anguish he feels and his inability to get rid of it.
  • The surrounding area is full of forests with many dead trees and warped branches, symbolizing the spindly, disgusting spider legs of the Possum.
  • While on the topic of spider legs, those in themselves are a symbol for fingers. If you haven’t seen the last 10 minutes of the film, there’s a LOT of fingers involved.
  • And last but not least, the Possum. Phillip’s dead-eyed spider puppet symbolizes multiple things; his fractured or suffering mental state, his abusive uncle Maurice (who we later discover is the man who’s been abducting and molesting many children in the area, who also raped him when he was young), and Philip’s desire to release this trauma from his life. Wherever he goes, no matter how hard he tries to get rid of it, the Possum is always there. Creeping up close behind him, watching him from afar, waking up with it in his bed, menacing him with his long, hairy appendages. There is no escape, you can’t break it or burn it, you can’t leave it all behind, because pain and memories aren’t physical things. The only way to get rid of abuse is to do away with the abuser.

Speculation Abomination

When Uncle Maurice says, “Waking up is it? Wants to get out” he’s referring to Phillip’s growing suspicion that Maurice is actually the one that raped him.

The green candies Maurice offers to Phillip could potentially be drugs that knock him out and allow for Maurice to get up to his dirty deeds. They could also be just regular candies that Maurice used to coerce Phillip into doing gross things or letting Maurice abuse him more.

The nature of the name ‘Possum’ for the puppet could be significant in that it mirrors how Phillip acts. Possums (the animal) are known to be cowardly and play dead when frightened, which is something Phillip does when he’s put into an uncomfortable situation. When he throws the Possum off the bridge, he too acts like a possum, slams into the mud, and curls up in a ball while he experiences horrible flashbacks.

Final Thoughts

This movie is really good and it is worth your time. It makes you feel more uncomfortable and slimy than scared, but the single most terrifying scene of the whole movie is well deserved. I literally threw my laptop when Uncle Maurice jumped out of the shadows. Please support this film, I genuinely recommend it.

Written by: Fabrizio Ramirez

Weekly Watchlist: Week 1

This is Weekly Watchlist. Weekly, (or bi-weekly, depends on how many movies I’ve seen), I will be posting an article detailing the movies I’ve watched during the week.

Why peruse the Weekly Watchlist? Because I’m a film major, *shrugs shoulders* I watch movies almost everyday, and I’ve got some things to say about them. Some are really nice, while others are trash; my job is to help you, the reader, avoid the trash. 

Before we get into anything, I need to give a shoutout to the app Letterboxd. Letterboxd is a free app where you can log the films you’ve watched, rate/review them, and see what your friends think of films. I use this to keep track of everything I watch and this series is loosely based off their online process.

Monday (2.11.19)

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – 3.5/5

  • A fistful of Clinty Beastwood & some pretty nice/old-style cinematography; watched this for a film classics course I’m enrolled in and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for Wild West films and will sit through one no matter how slow it is sometimes.

Tuesday (2.12.19)

The Lobster (2015) – 4.5/5

  • An extremely interesting and unique story created by Greek film director Yorgos Lanthimos; this is his first feature film in all American-English and he does a marvelous job. The plot is so well written and obscure; the acting is well-executed by the great cast. The cinematography was done by frequent collaborator Thimios Bakatakis and was extremely impressive. 4.5/5 stars.

The Social Network (2010) – 4.5/5

  • I’ve wanted to see this for the longest time but unfortunately it’s not on any streaming sites. Fortunately, I found it on 123Movies and was able to watch it with only mildly sh**ty audio. Extremely interesting and amazing acting all around. Makes the world realize how much of an a**hole Mark Zuckerberg is.

Wednesday (2.13.19)

The Snowman (2017) – 1/5

  • Honestly did not expect it to be good in any way. But I also did not expect it to be this bad… Gave it 1 out of 5 stars because it seems that everyone involved genuinely thought they were making something good. Horrific editing, stupid and confusing story, and a rather waste of time. But plenty of memes can come from this

Thursday (2.14.19)

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) – 3/5

  • Not nearly as prolific as the original or the Lego Batman movie but better than the Lego Ninjago movie. Expected more from the pilot LEGO film sequel as it had a star studded cast and an exponential amount of ways the plot could’ve gone. The story was not nearly as great and it didn’t really impress me but I think it deserves a 2nd viewing.

Friday (2.15.19)

The End of the Tour (2015) – 4/5

  • Extremely introspective and offers a deeper analysis through a second viewing (that I probably won’t do). Well made and really interesting; the cinematography actually surprised me as to how well it was shot; the writing was also extremely nice. This movie made me want to actually read the 1,000+ page book that David Foster Wallace actually wrote. Heads up there’s an ending credit scene for some reason.

Saturday (2.16.19)

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) – 3/5

  • I first learned about this experiment in my high school psychology class; subsequently, this film came out in theatres in the same semester. My teacher recommended it to everyone but it wasn’t until this week that I finally sat down and watched it. The most interesting part is the character development (which is obviously the point of the experiment/film). Through watching, I found that the film did not really depict the horrors that the boys faced to the fullest extent. I read and researched far worse things than what was depicted in the film. Felt a little slow at times but this was full of young promising talent and fairly well done acting.

Sunday (2.17.19)

Pulp Fiction (1994) – 4.5/5

  • Put this on to watch a few iconic scenes but ended up just watching the whole damn thing. I don’t think I really need to go in depth as to how or why this movie is great and a classic that everyone knows. You can probably find 5,000+ word analysis’ of this film somewhere honestly.

Thank you for reading along this week’s Weekly Watchlist; I hope these comments offer insight into your choice of what to watch.

Make sure to check next week to see what I watch.

Written by: Eduardo Orozco

Three Classic Films to Watch

Movies, just like other pieces of art, are important works that can say a lot about society and send important messages to the masses. Movies can also be political. There have been a plethora of important films since the medium’s conception, and many of them have vital political and social themes. So, here are some classic movies that I highly recommend.

1. “All the President’s Men”

This movie is a very excellent take on the important role that journalists play within the United States. It focuses on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the investigative journalism that they undertook in exposing the details of the Watergate scandal, which ultimately led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as president. This movie is significant, because it shows that within a democracy, journalism plays a crucial role in informing the masses and exposing them to information that they have a right to know.

2. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

This classic film starring Katharine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier carries an extremely powerful message, as it deals with interracial marriage and racial tensions during the 1960s in the United States. It hones in on a couple that recently got engaged, and the events that ensue after the white daughter brings home her black fiancé to meet her parents. In the film, the white parents grapple with the idea that their daughter has chosen to marry a black man, which was something extremely controversial at the time and even illegal in some states.

3. “To Kill a Mockingbird”

This movie with Gregory Peck (who actually attended San Diego State back when it was a college for school teachers) is based off of the classic novel by Harper Lee. This film is an extremely important work, and even won Peck an Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Atticus Finch. It shows the unjust race relations that were rampant during the 1930s in the U.S. The movie focuses in on a black man who is unjustly accused of raping a white woman, and really showcases the racism that African-Americans had to endure during that time period (and still do now). This heartbreaking film is a classic that really sends a political message about the unjust nature of society.

Featured Image.

The Importance of Cinematic Soundtracks

What makes a movie great is based on a number of factors, including its ensemble of actors, the cinematography and the script. These components of film tend to get the most attention from critics and viewers alike, who find these areas to be crucial to the quality of the movie. However, the soundtrack of a movie also plays a vital role in the quality of the film.

The soundtrack of a film can add to the emotional component, or add a comedic, creepy or suspenseful layer to the film, depending on how the music is composed.

When we take into consideration classic movies, not only does the great acting and wonderful storytelling come to mind, but either consciously or subconsciously, so does the music of the movie.

When we think of Steven Spielberg’s film “Jaws,” the suspenseful theme music of the shark comes to mind, and is responsible for that intense buildup before the shark is about to strike. The music contributes to the anxiety that we feel at that moment, and adds to the overall terror that the shark conjures.

Another memorable film is Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park,” a  movie that virtually all of us have seen and a timeless piece that has stuck with us throughout the decades. Not only are the realistic looking dinosaurs mesmerizing, but the soundtrack plays a huge role in the emotional grip that the film holds over its audience. When I, and many others, think of “Jurassic Park,” the main theme track of the film automatically comes to mind. We associate the song with the film.

But Spielberg’s films are not the only films that have memorable soundtracks. George Lucas’ “Star Wars” movies and Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” have cinematic soundtracks that have stood the test of time. “Indiana Jones” also has a soundtrack that is automatically recognizable when heard. The soundtracks to these films are masterpieces and have mesmerized audiences. And, they create a wave of nostalgia when heard by many of us.

Featured Image: retrieved from here.