Director: Matthew Holness
Starring: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong .UK. 1h 25m
There’s a place that some dark artist like to go, it often involves gloomy and eerie aspects from a fuzzy past that are easily recognised but often pushed back to those obscure corners of our minds, like a suppressed memory Possum manages from slither its way out of the dank interior of an old English home, and hides itself in the brown bag carried by a disgraced children’s puppeteer as he embarks on a journey to confront his stepfather and his own inner demons.
The film opens with Philip (Harris) wandering aimlessly around a remote area of Norfolk with his bag clutched tightly to him, after some atmospheric art house scenes backed by a heavy Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack. He spys a few teenage boys on a train he tries to talk with one but he runs away from the creepy man, Philip returns to his home, a dank rundown home with a disheveled garden, here he opens his bag and chucks the contents into a metal barrel with the promise to destroy the leggy creature, eventually we are made aware of Maurice (Armstrong), a sly and controlling character who seems to want to encourage Philip to keep his puppet, while constantly keeps asking if he’s going to burn it, which Philip agrees to but then never does. Little by little Maurice exerts control over Philip and suggests different places for him to visit, while the puppet is slowly revealed and each time the effects on Philip get more disastrous. As a news story about a missing school boy flourish in the news, questions are raised over Philips possible involvement.
Sean Harris is well known for his ability to take on very difficult roles, the method acting his displayed in Creep (2004) is absolutely outstanding and he add something extra to any movie he’s involved with even his small bit parts like Prometheus he presence gives any movie a certain edge. While Alun Armstrong is a well seasoned actor I felt his role was mixed up which resulted in him coming across as creepy rising damp version of Bill Sykes, but there are reasons for this, but the manipulation of this role but the director could have been more dynamic. On the whole they do make some very gritty drama,
For a huge segment in the middle of the film it feels as if nothing really happens, there’s a a lot repetition but it’s beautiful… it’s visually stunning to watch, if you admire the world of creepy balloons, creatures with multiple legs and a nightmarish landscape that rains black blood. Eventually the film pulls itself together and carries on gathering speed as it slowly fits the pieces together for the penultimate groundbreaking ending.
It feels very much like Cronenberg’s Spider (2002) but with less clarity (and more legs), and a touch of Lynch. The repetitive nature is only bound to lose viewers along the way, which is a shame as the vivid dank setting it perfect, you can literally smell the damp in the house and there’s not doubt there is “matter” in their sink also.
For a debut film that was sketched out by Matthew Holness it is an accomplished raw film that’s oppressive and overwhelming in style. While many will criticize it for failing to deliver a straightforward story, I don’t believe it’s really all that straight forward to explain repressed memories and abuse without some kind of abstraction, but this film feels as if it’s Salad Fingers come to life, something I was never going to be prepared for but I did thoroughly enjoy.