Possum (2018) Written & Directed by Matthew Holness
Horror is not a monster wanting to eat you or a masked killer wielding a knife. Horror is the inability to trust your own mind, the lines between reality and subconscious terror blending so that your waking hours are swallowed up by fear. What adds to that is the inability to express what is happening inside your mind so that these traumatic experiences become a mire, in which you drown alone, unheard & unseen. This is the horror writer-director Matthew Holness brings us in Possum. Holness is best known for his comedy series Garth Merenghi which offered a silly take on retro-horror. Here there is no humor to cut through the darkness, we must bear witness to it.
Children of Men (2006) Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
It’s been approximately ten years since I sat down to watch Children of Men, the film I put as my favorite film of the last decade, the 00s. A decade later, with a thousand plus more movies watched, I can see the cracks in the picture better now, but it still holds up as a significant technical achievement and vision of a very potential future on the horizon. Since Children of Men first came out, we have had global tumult including, but not limited to, the passing of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, which have been frightening signifiers as to the direction our planet is taking. Climate change has worsened, which lead to an influx of refugees and creates the very circumstances under which Children of Men’s future is born. All we are missing is the sudden, unexplained infertility.
In Fabric (2018) Written & Directed by Peter Strickland
It’s difficult to determine when and where we are during In Fabric. This intentional disorientation helps add to the sense of the eerie and unsettling. The commercials on television are drenched in a 1970s hue, music synthesized and distorted. Yet at home, our characters appear to be living contemporary lives. The location is a fictional city of Thames Valley on Thames which may be rural or metropolitan. The adverts for Dentley & Soper’s department store are stylized occult rituals, the owner and his staff of mesmerized attendants invoking the customer to come and buy from their holiday sale.
Everything Beast is predicated on could become cliche so quickly in the hands of a lazy filmmaker. A serial killer is targeting teenage girls on the island of Jersey, England. The movie could be an investigative procedural, but it isn’t. There’s a dark romance between protagonist Moll and local poacher Pascal that could be something Twilight adjacent, but the director refuses to go there, though he will hint at it. What Beast ultimately reveals itself as is a dark psychological profile about a young woman coming into her own, shaking off the repressive elements of her middle-class upbringing and her label as a “damaged woman.”
The Souvenir (2019) Written & Directed by Joanna Hogg
She meets him during a party. He works for the foreign office, is older, and exudes that overwhelming sense of mystery and sophistication. They stumble through the first steps of a thing they haven’t entirely defined yet. She’s caught up in developing her first feature film, a story about a declining English city. He’s always bounding about for work. Then his secret comes out, divulged by a dinner guest and every single thing in her life goes spiraling. This is a semi-autobiographical film from Joanna Hogg which follows the character of Julie in the early 1980s as she sinks into the quicksand of a destructive relationship.
Lady Macbeth (2016) Written by Alice Birch and Nikolai Leskov Directed by William Oldroyd
This is not a movie about Lady Macbeth. It’s not an adaptation of Shakespeare. It’s not a reimagining of the events of his play. This is a film noir, set in the English Victorian era, about a classic femme fatale, told from her perspective coldly and neutrally. She’s a child bride, sold off to a wealthy man so his son can have a wife. The problem is that the son has no attraction to her; we later learn why, and it’s not what you expect. Left alone in a dusty manor house, our protagonist seeks out the affections of a gruff stablehand, someone like she used to know before this life. The two engage in a torrid affair, the house staff knowing exactly what is going on, and this all leads to murder.
Frank (2014) Written by Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
When given an actor like Michael Fassbender, a man with a handsome leading actor face and square jaw, the last thing you would think to do is put him under a paper mache head for ¾ of your movie. In doing this though the filmmakers give Fassbender some freedoms he might not be afforded in more traditional roles in films that call on him to be a smoldering lover or a dashing hero. The character of Frank is a cipher, created by comedian and musician Chris Sievey. Sievey used Frank as a way to express the strangeness and absurdity he might have felt too nervous about showcasing with his face revealed. The film Frank, very different from the real world Frank, is a mentally ill man who is unable to see himself as a valuable person and hides in this mask, which he sees as the ideal form of a face.