THIS strange, chilling and fascinating British horror-tinged drama marks the feature debut of writer-director Matthew Holness, best known as the co-creator, writer and star of cult comedy series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

And on the strength of his power to get under your skin while making you think, he’s a filmmaking talent to watch for the future.

Adapted from Holness’s own 2008 short story, it focuses on disgraced puppeteer Philip (Sean Harris) who returns to his Norfolk home hell-bent on destroying the titular revolting, spider-like puppet he keeps in a brown bag. When events conspire to stop him from doing so, he is forced to confront his sinister stepfather Maurice (Alun Armstrong) who opens up psychological wounds from his past.

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Possum is a film that makes you feel, first and foremost. It has the hallmarks of everyday Britain but cloaked in an odd, otherworldly atmosphere that makes you feel like something is wrong.

Nightmarish is a key word here and feels like the very essence of Holness’s intentions. His foray into feature filmmaking is skin-crawling cinema in the best way; he employs terrific use of framing, sudden cutting and a striking voice-over and a soundtrack of piercing high-pitched frequencies and intensifying low droning (by pioneering electronic outfit The Radiophonic Workshop), to mould something unforgettable.

It’s anchored in a mesmerising central performance by Harris, one of the most fascinating actors working today. Worlds away from his steely eyed portrayal of scheming villain Solomon Lane in the Mission: Impossible franchise, he gives a captivating performance of unsettling physicality.

He’s the complete centre of the film’s attention, with barely a moment passing that he doesn’t occupy; his main interactions are with the eponymous puppet and his stepfather, played with brilliant menace by Armstrong.

It takes a special kind of actor for what is effectively a one-man show. Something about the way Harris holds himself, walks, speaks and stares is engrossingly disquieting, a feeling which slowly gives way to an unexpected emotional impact as the character battles his way towards a catharsis his mind, scarred from neglect and abuse, so clearly needs.

It’s undoubtedly a grim and unpleasant film, with the kind of imagery most directors with decades of experience would be lucky to create. Propelled by a limitless feeling of dread, Holness’s film blurs the lines between nightmare and reality to conjure what is a deeply unsettling experience.