SHF 2024: A Wild Possum

Image Courtesy of Salem Horror Fest

We all go a little mad sometimes. That’s what Psycho’s Norman Bates says anyway. Sure, the original silver screen slasher had his problems and went on to kill a bunch of people after issuing the statement, but on this point, he was indisputably correct. There’s a fire in everyone, and if it’s not ventilated properly, there can be irrevocable consequences. Daisy Rosato and Sophie Sagan-Gutherz’s short film Possum poses the same statement among a group of millennial artists on a retreat when one of them viciously kills the possum that’s been sneaking into their garden. But that’s not the end of it. The philosophical entanglement surrounding the event leads the group to an abrupt and interesting decision as they look to make sense of the shocking event.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from Possum. Once director Rosato’s film opens, you hear the breathing exercises of theater kids melding with nature sounds, see the possum wandering through the lavishly green landscape, and you immediately have to ask yourself, “Where is this going?”

I remember taking classes exactly like the ones Pinecone (Misha Brooks), Tilly (Michelle Davis), Blaze (Sagan-Gutherz), Hadley (Gilbert D. Sanchez), and Annabella (Hannah Shealy) seem to be freely exploring. At the time, I was pretty reserved and still can be if I’m honest. Exercises like these were intended to open you up, and they can to a point. This is a very accurate portrayal to anyone who has never been a part of or witnessed an artist residency like Possum’s. Rosato shows us the effects, as well. The group seems closer and more relaxed with each other as they sit fireside and play a game of Werewolf. The undertones of the devious game are the cornerstone of Gutherz and Rosato’s writing here, as the game suggests anyone could be a killer. But in a place like this and with people like these, that could only ever be a game, right?

A group of people are artfully entangled behind a title card reading Possum that fills the screen

At only fifteen minutes, there is a lot to muse on, but Possum ultimately exposes the parts of us we hide underneath an exterior persona. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it were. Possums are instinctual and naturally nonconfrontational to humans. They can be territorial, but they’re typically docile creatures, unlike humans. When the possum is murdered, the killer takes it pretty hard. We see this character as a meek individual who avoids direct confrontation. They’re apologetic during the game’s accusation aspect and siphon milk from another resident without asking. There are signs around the communal household promoting sensitivity, spirituality, and veganism. Yet, all are quickly turned upside down by the event, prompting the group to question who they are and their beliefs.

Possum is wild! This short film is a ton of fun and wonderfully realized by Rosato, particularly the final frames. There’s a ton of waspy passive-aggression leading to some dry humor through pretentious ends. It’s a little in the Jim Jarmusch or Yorgos Lanthimos deadpan comedic style, where something becomes so abundantly absurd, but no one in the movie seems to notice. People feel personally attacked, there’s a rant about disturbing the Native Americans that once lived on the land, and any connectable fabric between the group quickly dissolves while they circle around a dead possum. The societal outrage inferences run deep. You’re gonna love it.

Possum plays with Sweet Relief during Salem Horror Fest’s Weekend ITickets for the festival are on sale now and include access to a multitude of films and events throughout the April 26 through April 28 weekend.

Written by Sean Parker

Sean lives just outside of Boston. He loves great concerts, all types of movies, video games, and all things nerd culture.

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