Possum Review

POSSUM (2018.)

Directed by Matthew Holness.

Starring Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong.

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I didn’t by any stretch of the imagination have a miserable childhood. I didn’t live in poverty or in a run down house on the edge of some industrial area that not so long ago was a rural and beautiful place. Wallpaper wasn’t peeling off the walls. Everything wasn’t a dull yellow and the garden wasn’t overgrown and hiding the ruins of some long forgotten out building. I didn’t have any of that but Possum made me think I did.

Without revealing too much plot, Possum is the story of Phillip (Sean Harris) returning to his childhood home and having to live with his demons. It is unclear what he has done to make him return home. His stepfather lingers in the corners of the house seemingly tormenting him. In the background a story develops about a missing person and Philip seems to have some baggage that he needs to get rid of. You need not know anymore as you enter into this fever dream of your life in the United Kingdom of the bleak 1980s. As I watched Possum I felt like I was watching a public information film. It was like a memory of sitting in a classroom watching a huge box television that had been wheeled in by the janitor. I was expecting to be warned about the dangers of railroad crossings. The video suffering from the neglect of nobody adjusting the contrast on the television for at least ten years and the audio suffering from a build up of static and the wear of repeated viewings. Instead of the dangers of railroads or a lesson in science or geography you have instead been heavily dosed with LSD. As it sets in a long suppressed memory comes to the fore and plays out on screen. The demons are set loose and become a horrendous reminder of a life you aren’t sure if you did or didn’t live. That is what Possum was to me.

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Visually and audio wise Possum is a masterpiece. Think Scarfolk Council and you are there. Remove all humour and insert forgotten trauma instead. The music is haunting and used along with sound effects to great effect. Drifting in and out like that worn out VCR copy you probably watched a hundred times in your time at school. The story is disturbing and even though slow captivates you and keeps you engaged. It builds and builds in tension throughout and it never lets you truly understand what is happening. For a lot of people today that sounds poor, but to me it was brilliant. Why does the missing person story keep appearing? Is it relevant? What is the significance of his step dad? Is that really there? And so on and so on.

The only issue I had with it was a poorly executed ending. It sure is disturbing but it ultimately fell flat for me. But then again I feel that is what the horror genre suffers from most of all. It is hard to wrap up such subjects, especially ones as bleak as this. Ultimately you should watch it and let those suppressed memories come flooding back.

Reviewed by Paul Beech

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The skull engravings of Paul Beech

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Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Fine Bones  …

Folk Horror Revival popped some questions over to skull engraver extraordinaire Paul Beech and present here for the pleasure of your eyeballs some folk horror bony goodness – enjoy

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Folk Horror Revival: What inspired you to take up skull engraving and what did you choose for your first design? 

Paul Beech: Moving to Ireland and the incredible landscape of forests and mountains igniting my creativity. I feel like I stumbled into using skulls though. A combination of reckless adventuring and bad weather on the Comeragh Mountains led me to them. My first design was the Icelandic magic symbol The Helm of Terror as the Old Gods and old ways are a huge influence on my work.

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FHR: What sort of skulls do you engrave upon and do you acquire the skulls?

PB: So far I’ve only used sheep and rams (I’ve a fox stewing away though!) I acquire them myself up in the Comeragh Mountains. I go off the paths and vanish into the wild. I’m hoping to find some goats and deer soon but they aren’t in as much abundance. It’s important to note that I do not purchase skulls from hunters and butchers. If I did happen to, I would be sure to make people aware of the source.

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FHR: If you were able to engrave onto any type of skull which creature would you choose?

 PB: A human skull! They look incredible carved.
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FHR: Do you do any other form of art? 

PB: I like photography. I take pictures of all the skulls I’ve found and include them with finished pieces. The fog and gloom of the Irish Landscape makes for beautiful photo material too.

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FHR: If someone wanted to purchase an engraved skull from you, how would they go about it? 

PB: For now find me on Instagram at @paul_beech or look out for when I post on the Folk Horror Emporium with available skulls, jaws and maybe the odd spine too! ☠

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All carvings and images © Paul Beech