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October 17, 2023
Ruined with Alison Leiby and Halle Kiefer

In This Episode

Halle and Alison talk puppets, spiders, and trauma as they ruin Possum.





[theme music]:  If scary movies give you dread, keep you up late night in bed. Here’s a podcast that will help ease your mind. We’ll explain the plot real nicely. Then we’ll talk about what’s frightening so you never have to have a spooky time. It’s Ruined.


Halle Kiefer: Oh, hello. Welcome to Ruined. I’m Halle. 


Alison Leiby: And I’m Alison. 


Halle Kiefer: And this is a podcast. Where we ruin a horror movie. Just for you. 


Alison Leiby: Just for all of you, Halle. I know. I just saw you. How you doing? 


Halle Kiefer: I know. I’m good. I was just in New York. We had our very first actual Ruined live show. It was, of course, streaming on Moment House if you all saw it. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: But also, if you were in New York, you might have physically attended it. Please tell us we did a good job. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: I think it went well, what do you think?


Alison Leiby: I think, I think it was super fun. It seemed like everybody had a really good time. You know, it was our first pass at like, what does this look like in front of other people? Also, like, not even live. We haven’t been in person to record together since February of 2020. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, we’ve not seen each other in damn. I mean, over three years, three and a half years. 


Alison Leiby: Well we’d seen each other, but we hadn’t done Ruined stuff together. 


Halle Kiefer: Oh yeah you’re right. [both speaking] Cause I did see you when I was in New York yeah. 


Alison Leiby: But, but that’s not enough. But it was—


Halle Kiefer: Spiritually—


Alison Leiby: Spiritually. 


Halle Kiefer: We hadn’t seen each other. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. Yes. In the Ruined sense. 


Halle Kiefer: And by spiritually, I mean. Yeah, exactly. Podcastly. But it was great thank you so much to everyone who came out. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Everyone who we met was so incredibly kind and wonderful. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And such a sweetheart. We really appreciate it. And if you watched it on Moment House, thank you as well. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. Hopefully that translated. It sounds like it did.


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. We’re hoping to do more live shows like in 2024 as we sort of figure out what that looks like. Because I was nervous because I haven’t been in front of an audience in that way in so long. And you pointed out, you’re like, oh, you’ve done Lovett or Leave It, which is true, but it’s not my show. So I don’t really care. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, right, right. 


Halle Kiefer: You know what I mean, like, I want to do good job, but I’m not going to.


Alison Leiby: Right.


Halle Kiefer: I’m not going to beat myself up. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, the stakes aren’t quite as. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: Hi. From an ego standpoint. So. 


Halle Kiefer: Alison, how are you doing? 


Alison Leiby: I’m good. I’m finally almost done, my traveling hell two months, and I just have to go to Ohio this week and then Missouri next week. And then I’m done. I don’t have to go anywhere. 


Halle Kiefer: Oh good. Where are you going? Are you going to Cleveland? 


Alison Leiby: Cleveland in Columbus with Ilana. 


Halle Kiefer: Where are you playing in Cleveland? 


Alison Leiby: I don’t even know. 


Halle Kiefer: I’ll tell my Cleveland friends. 


Alison Leiby: I don’t even think there are. I think they’ve sold out for a month already. Girl, girl can pack a house. 


Halle Kiefer: If you live in Cleveland hopefully you’re already going.


Alison Leiby: Yes. And also, by the time this comes out, I’ll have done it and come back already. [laughs] You know, time. 


Halle Kiefer: Perfect. Time—


Alison Leiby: Time.


Halle Kiefer: —our old enemy time.


Alison Leiby: Yeah. How was the flight back? What’s what? Any?


Halle Kiefer: Oh, I slept. I slept hard. 


Alison Leiby: Wow. 


Halle Kiefer: Than I watched. The Devil Wears Prada. Devil Wears Prada is my number one comfort put it on. Having seen it a million times. It is a perfect movie. 


Alison Leiby: It’s a perfect plane movie too.


Halle Kiefer: A perfect plane movie. My plane movies are Devil Wears Prada and Crazy Rich Asians because I feel like—


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: I could watch 20 minutes of that, fall asleep for 40, wake back up, see the end of either one of those movies. And I’m good to go.


Alison Leiby: Yeah. And they’re both, like, interesting enough that if you’re not sleeping, you’re like, okay, I’m half looking at this. I’m paying for Wi-Fi. And also just fucking around on my phone like, I’m not like. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: You can half pay attention and still be, like, enjoying them. 


Halle Kiefer: Absolutely. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, I think those are great choices. 


Halle Kiefer: Thank you. I. I try to do good at all things, so I really appreciate you saying that. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: So, you know, doing good. We are, of course, doing the God’s work by which we are. I mean, we are using this method to try to scare Alison to death. Yes. The theme of this month is let’s scare Alison to death. Hasn’t worked so far, but. 


Alison Leiby: I’m unfortunately still alive.


Halle Kiefer: Every day you’re closer to death. Yeah. Every day you’re closer to death and that’s kind of the same thing. 


Alison Leiby: True. True. 


Halle Kiefer: So. 


Alison Leiby: That’s every month then, is scare Alison to death. [laughs]


Halle Kiefer: There, so. We’re doing a movie I have been wanting to see for a while, and it is a movie I ended up watching last night in the dark. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, my God. I like. I didn’t like watching the trailer in the light. 


Halle Kiefer: And I will say this is a haunting one it is also very grim, greasy English horror movie. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And that, of course, is 2018’s Possum. And I just wanted to say that it is written and directed by Matthew Holness, which I don’t know if you would have seen this, but he is the creator and star of a is he plays a character who is like a fictional horror author that is an incredible character named Garth Marenghi, and he did like a it’s sort of a stage show. But then it’s sort of like a limited series or I guess every British show is a limited series. It’s not like here where we have to like—


Alison Leiby: Yeah, right. 


Halle Kiefer: Pop them out, but the show is called Garth Marenghi’s Dark Places, and he’s on like a series of other ones. Hang on. Garth Marenghi’s Dark Places. Sorry about that. It’s like a horror comedy. And it’s sort of like both about this horror show and also is like a mockumentary from the actors in it. 


Alison Leiby: Oh that’s fun. 


Halle Kiefer: And it’s very funny. And when I was in New York, I did a couple like storytelling shows where I was a fictional horror author. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, fun. 


Halle Kiefer: And I feel like I should, like, reread something that I wrote because basically the entire joke, which I thought was so funny and nobody else really thought was that that great. And I respect their opinion. It’s wrong but the joke of my character was that I was just really bad at describing things. [laughter] So I’d be like reading a description that’s like really spooky—


Alison Leiby: Wait that’s so funny. 


Halle Kiefer: Thank you, I think it’s unfortunately just one joke, so I really should have kept it short. It’s like, a five minute joke.


Alison Leiby: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah you that’s—


Halle Kiefer: This is like 10 minutes of me reading like a story. I’ll try to find it. I did it for a podcast one time and I’ll try to find the link, but I thought if I could, I bought a big hat to wear. 


Alison Leiby: Oh sure. 


Halle Kiefer: I was kind of going for like an Anne Rice, you know. 


Alison Leiby: Uh huh yes. Absolutely. 


Halle Kiefer: Like, Southern Gothic. [laughs] And then I just every time I had to describe something spooky. I did the worst possible job. 


Alison Leiby: That’s so funny. 


Halle Kiefer: Like an absolute fool. Yeah, well, maybe I’ll try to revive that for the pod, but. But this is a something that I was familiar with, Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. And then to see this movie. This is not a horror comedy, Alison. This is straight—


Alison Leiby: No, no, no. 


Halle Kiefer: This is straight forward baby. 


Alison Leiby: No, nothing about this looks funny. 


Halle Kiefer: And it’s based on Holness’s a short story that he wrote of the same name that was published of the horror anthology, The New Uncanny: Tales of Unease. And I fucking love horror anthologies.


Alison Leiby: Tales of Unease. 


Halle Kiefer: Let us know your favorite horror anthology I, I. I loved them as kids. I’ve started to buy them again. 


Alison Leiby: Nice. 


Halle Kiefer: Nothing takes the edge off then reading one spooky story at a time. You know what I mean? 


Alison Leiby: I love I love anything that’s like a short story, an essay, a vignette. Just. 


Halle Kiefer: Just just easier for you to get through too. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, my attention span is, that of a goldfish. 


Halle Kiefer: So we, of course, always like to have Alison watch the trailer. Alison, what did you think of the Possum trailer? 


Alison Leiby: Very scary trailer. Also the trailer, it starts off and you’re like, I think I kind of get what this is like. Maybe there’s some kind of demon a boy goes missing. This guy either killed him or, like, sacrificed him or something, but then, like, spider legs and then another guy and a lot of, like, balloons with black air in there. I did not like this. [laughs] 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, it’s a lot of upsetting imagery. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And again, I’m not saying you can’t do a reboot or you can’t use IP, but I do feel like the current trend, like people are relying on visuals from the original movies. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: When what we want is. 


Alison Leiby: New horror. 


Halle Kiefer: Creative, unique novel visuals. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: And scares of course. And there are a couple of visuals in here where I’m like, Have I seen something similar? Yes, but have I seen this? No, I have not. And that—


Alison Leiby: I like that, I mean not for this. 


Halle Kiefer: I give this movie a lot of credit. 


Alison Leiby: And not for me, but like I’m glad. 


Halle Kiefer: Absolutely. And then most importantly, it was 85 minutes long, which of course, is the length a horror movie should be. 


Alison Leiby: Any movie. 


Halle Kiefer: As we’ve established on this podcast. We always like to take a baseline scary. Alison, how scary do you find the concept of a puppet? You can’t get rid of?


Alison Leiby: Oh, boy. I don’t like that at all. 


Halle Kiefer: Try all your might Alison.


Alison Leiby: Honestly a puppet I can get rid of [both speaking] is still pretty scary.


Halle Kiefer: I will say, if you’re on the Wikipedia, the of the main character is described as a disgraced children’s puppeteer. If you can imagine what what. 


Alison Leiby: Wow. 


Halle Kiefer: Area of scary we’re going to enter soon. 


Alison Leiby: God no. 


Halle Kiefer: I don’t know. So two thumbs down is what you’re saying? 


Alison Leiby: Yeah I would say that that’s not something that I enjoy or ever want to hear about. 


Halle Kiefer: How do you feel about puppets in general I feel, of course we did Puppet Master. 


Alison Leiby: Right. But those are kind of a different breed. 


Halle Kiefer: And this puppet is. I don’t know. I think maybe these are all breeding together. 


Alison Leiby: Oh no. 


Halle Kiefer: I think if you got the puppet from this this movie together with those puppets, they’d be fucking and sucking and making a bunch of monster puppets unfortunately. 


Alison Leiby: Oh boy. 


Halle Kiefer: I think they’re the same species. Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: Okay, well, I guess my biggest confusion is why we’re calling this Possum when clearly it’s spider, but. 


Halle Kiefer: I’ll be absolutely honest. There’s no reason other than that is the name of the puppet. There’s it’s never explained. 


Alison Leiby: That’s so strange. 


Halle Kiefer: It is simply. Yes. And I think this to me has like a it uses a lot of like childhood dream logic. So I think we’re suppose to think. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Like this is like a kid named a puppet that as as a child. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, that makes sense. 


Halle Kiefer: And would you like to guess the twist based on what you know, about 2018’s, Possum. 


[voice over]: Guess the twist. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, boy. Would you say there’s a twist? 


Halle Kiefer: No, I would say so. It’s so hard to say now because I’m like, my brain is so broken. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: That I’m like, no, you see what’s happening. But let’s say there is there’s not really. 


Alison Leiby: I’m going to—


Halle Kiefer: I guess there’s a twist like there was a twist in Devil. Does that make sense? Like it’s a twist, but not. 


Alison Leiby: Right okay. 


Halle Kiefer: It has to end up somewhere sort of.


Alison Leiby: Yes. I’m going to guess that like we see them like from the perspective of like our main character, that like there is a possessed puppet, it is controlling what’s happening. But we’ve then find out in reality that’s not happening. And he just killed this kid. Like he’s imagining the puppet telling him what to do, and then he murders on behalf of it. But he’s really it’s like Son of Sam style. Like, that dog isn’t talking. 


Halle Kiefer: Perfect. Okay, great. And I also want to shout out the main character who’s played by the actor Sean Harris, who’s been in a million different things. He was in Prometheus, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission Impossible Fallout. He’s in a ton of different British projects. Obviously, this motherfucker he is, it’s literally him, panicked, wordlessly scrambling around a muddy field for 90 minutes and it’s scary the entire time. He does an excellent job. 


Alison Leiby: He seems like he’s killing it. 


Halle Kiefer: He’s knocking it out of the park and the park being a trauma based children’s horror, British terror. 


Alison Leiby: Mm hmm. Oh great. 


Halle Kiefer: You know, it is it is a great it’s a there’s a a smudgy smoky, wet little corner of a cinema, but he nails it. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: So let’s begin. Oh, and by the way, there’s a lot of poems in there, so get ready. Put out your old poetry hats. Your poetry hat is a spider. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, it’s a little. It’s like a spider fascinator. 


Halle Kiefer: It’s like I feel like somebody who’s got one of those—


Alison Leiby: 100%. 


Halle Kiefer: —yeah. We open on our main character, Philip. He is standing [?] feel his mouth agape, a look of horror, which is like what he looks like the entire time. And just he basically starts on a ten and has to ratchet up to a 15. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: Which is not easy for an actor to do. And Sean nailed it. We hear in voiceover him reading a poem and says—


[clip of Sean Harris]: Mother. Father. What’s afoot? Only Possum, black as soot. Mother, Father, where to tread? Far from Possum, and his head.


Halle Kiefer: Suddenly it’s nighttime and we see Philip standing over a leather duffle bag, which is sort of like in the crotch of a tree. Like the tree itself. 


Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Splits off low to the ground as we saw in the trailer. And Philip, we hear him, read another poem. Here’s a bag. Now, what’s inside? Does he seek or does he hide? Can you spy him deep within. Little possum, black as sin. And he, of course, kneels down to open the bag and when he stands up, he looks silently horrified. Something ain’t right with that bag. Alison.


Alison Leiby: I don’t like it. I mean, it looks like a nice bag, but I don’t want to know what’s inside. 


Halle Kiefer: Oh, it’s a gorgeous weekender. I mean, like you would. You or I. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Would absolutely have that bag. 


Alison Leiby: Of course. 


Halle Kiefer: So we have this incredibly terrifying credit sequence that we later then see throughout the movie, like the images from the sequence. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: One of them is sort of like an abandoned army barracks. So we know we’re going to see that at some point. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Don’t go to an abandoned army barracks. 


Alison Leiby: There’s no need. 


Halle Kiefer: There’s nothing good that’s going to happen there. 


Alison Leiby: You don’t need to go. There’s no reason for you to go to one. 


Halle Kiefer: Exactly. We see Philip, he’s dressed in like a travel trench, which we love. 


Alison Leiby: We love. 


Halle Kiefer: He’s kind of got a look at the beginning. He has a look throughout. Actually, now that I’m saying this. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: He’s standing over a bed and he sees a leather duffle bag sitting there and he’s glaring, he’s glowering. And he takes his cigarette and he puts it out on the out of the bag that on the train. We see he’s got the duffel bag on the table in front of him. He’s still is obviously lost in thought. This is a man who spent his entire adult life lost in thought basically. And he looks over. He sees some middle school boys chatting, you know, going nuts. And one of them is drawing. And at this point, we immediately know something bad happened to this guy as a kid. Right. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: It’s like he is. And it’s not like a malevolent stare at these kids. It’s like I am carrying around my trauma. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: From when I was your age stare. Right. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And one of the boys, the boys drawing looks up and sees Philip stare staring and kind of looks away. And when they’re all getting out of the station, Philip tries to talk to them and say, Oh, what were you drawing? But the boys freaked out because I will say, Philip, you know, in this, a lot of the movie is like he’s clearly so isolated and he doesn’t mean to be, but he does have a very menacing continence countenance?


Alison Leiby: Yes, he is like a scar— Like his vibe in this. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: Is scary. 


Halle Kiefer: Right. So if you’re like a 14 year old boy you’re like I, I’m going to go ahead. I don’t have to talk to this guy. 


Alison Leiby: I don’t need this. 


Halle Kiefer: And but then you also do feel bad for Philip where it’s like I do think that he means well, but he has due to, well we’ll find out what happened in his childhood. He is. Philip has gotten off on the wrong foot in life is sort of how I would say it. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And I feel terrible for him. He’s socially awkward. He’s isolated and he’s got his big duffel bag. So he goes to a home with boarded up windows. You love to see it, of course. And he uses his key to get inside and it’s super rundown. We’ve got wallpaper falling off the walls, but there’s obviously someone living there and he puts his duffel bag down and starts to slowly climb the stairs. We see a bedroom. There’s a bunch of yellow and orange balloons. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: In front of a wallpaper with a pattern of boys playing with yellow and orange balloons. And then we just see this, like, dark black smoke start to emerge around the balloon, sort of like originating underneath them. And we’re seeing this, of course, as Philip is walking up the stairs to his own childhood bedroom. So, again, in case we didn’t know. 


Alison Leiby: Got it. 


Halle Kiefer: He did not have a great childhood. We’re not film critics, but we’ve seen enough of these to know exactly what we’re picking up what the movie’s pointed down, right? 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: We then see him leafing through a children’s book and we realize it’s a journal. He drew this book and very Babadook-esque. And so it’s drawings of this spider legged creature and then poems about the creature which is named Possum. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: We see the poems are sort of paper clipped into the book. And one poem is titled After the Fire Possum. But then we kind of don’t see the rest of the text, and we see Philip pick up a floorboard and put the book back underneath it. And when he goes back downstairs, his duffel bag is gone from the foyer and has been placed on a table in the kitchen. Philip calls out a name, Maurice? He enters the kitchen and he grabs the duffel bag and he takes the bag into the back of the house and he opens it and he pulls out a gigantic spider puppet. 


Alison Leiby: Mm. 


Halle Kiefer: And the leg span has got to be about six feet across. We do not see the spider’s head. We just of see the legs emerge from the side of Philip. 


Alison Leiby: Legs, yes. 


Halle Kiefer: As he takes it out the bag and he furiously jams it in a barrel. 


Alison Leiby: No. 


Halle Kiefer: And stuffs, storms back inside and he throws the empty duffle bag in the yard next to the door. We then hear another poem. Bag is open, growing wider. What’s inside, man or spider? Little boy, don’t lose your way. Possum wants to come and play. We see Philip exhausted, collapsed on a bed in his home, a fly crawling all over his sleeping face. And I will say I have a fly in my room. It’s I need to get fly paper it’s killing me. 


Alison Leiby: That sound is just like when it, like, kind of zooms by your head and is— [buzzing sound]


Halle Kiefer: Like, how dare you? 


Alison Leiby: It is awful. 


Halle Kiefer: It’s a human being’s home. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. Get out. 


Halle Kiefer: Alison. When Philip wakes up, the spider puppet, which we now know is named Possum, is lying stretched out beside him in bed, basically staring him face to face—


Alison Leiby: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. 


Halle Kiefer: The puppet has returned of its own volition. 


Alison Leiby: That’s not great. You don’t want to see it. Not from. 


Halle Kiefer: No. 


Alison Leiby: Possum, the spider puppet. 


Halle Kiefer: And this is, unfortunately, what we realize. He’s been trying to get rid of this puppet for years. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Is the puppet immediately recognizable as a symbol of his trauma? Yes.


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And yet it is remains horrifying, even knowing that this motherfucker’s not gonna get rid of this puppet, right? 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: So he jams Possum back into his duffel. Clearly, he can’t get rid of the damn thing. He’s probably tried this a million times. He makes it down to the foyer before he goes out the front door. There’s a closed door next to the front door, and he stands in front of it, staring at it. And behind him, behind him, we hear a voice saying, Going in? And he turns and we see a grizzled old man, Maurice, his uncle, who is standing inside the kitchen. And Philip says, No. And follows Maurice into the kitchen. And it’s such a robotic automatic. No. And like a following of his uncle. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Like, this is the dynamic, right? 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: The uncle, the clearly the uncle is they’ve established a routine since his childhood, and that is he listens to his uncle. Right. Once you’re in the kitchen, Maurice is like talking about how he loves Possum the puppet. He’s like that Puppet’s really impressive. The legs are really, like, incredible. And he says, What is it like a sculpture? And Philip says, it’s a puppet. And Maurice says, You show that to children? Philip says, No, I’m destroying it. And Maurice asks, Even the head? Alison, We haven’t seen the head yet. 


Alison Leiby: Right no, what’s really. Ask some questions about what’s going on with that head, that we’re bringing it up and we haven’t seen it. 


Halle Kiefer: Even the head Alison?


Alison Leiby: Even the head. Now he make is the idea that he made this puppet? 


Halle Kiefer: Yes, I think he made the puppet based on this character he created as a child. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: That he wrote about in his journal. So he is now as an adult, disgraced children’s puppeteer made this made the actual creature. That makes sense. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And so. Maurice tells Philip, I heard about your performance. An old teaching colleague of mine wrote to me a scandal, by all accounts. So we don’t get any information. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: But we do know that Philip is a disgraced children’s puppeteer. So I think we can assume that he made this puppet, had some sort of complete mental breakdown based on how he is acting now. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, that tracks. 


Halle Kiefer: But Philip says, no, they’ll take me back once and once that’s gone. So I think he’s saying he got fired essentially from a school and he’s like, No, once I get rid of this puppet, they’ll take me back to my job. That is not how jobs work, especially jobs at a school. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. No, no, no, no, no. You’re not just like I’ll. I’ll figure it out, and then it’ll be fine. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. If you terrify children with a big spider puppet you made, I don’t think they’re having you back. Maybe a different school, but not this school. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And he Philip takes a sip of tea and he spits it out violently, and Maurice like sort of tsks him, and he says, Well, now you won’t get anything from the jar. And we look and there’s a big jar, glass jar of, like, green hard candy inside. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: This glass cabinet. So clearly, again, like this is the candy that Maurice always gave him, always gave his nephew. And Maurice says, Can I get a demonstration of the puppet before you kill it? And Philip says, you can’t kill it. It’s a puppet. And Maurice says, Burn it, will you? And Philip doesn’t ask. Doesn’t reply. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: He looks around. He’s like, This place is disgusting Maurice. Maurice is like   Wow, King of the castle coming in here, critiquing my dump that I live in. And Philip starts to storm out. He’s still got the duffel bag. And he says, Remember, I want a demonstration of the puppet. We then see Philip smoking on a playground, he’s on a swing set deep in thought. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And he sees a couple approach with a baby carriage. And again, it’s like clearly he’s processing or not processing something that happened in his childhood. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah of course.


Halle Kiefer: So he doesn’t mean to be creepy. At the same time, this couple with a [both speaking] baby sees this guy literally fucking staring daggers at them from 100 feet away, chain smoking alone with no child on the—


Alison Leiby: At a playground. 


Halle Kiefer: Playground. 


Alison Leiby: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. 


Halle Kiefer: He. We see him take the duffel bag in the woods, and he keeps trying to abandon or burn or destroy Possum. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: So we see him wandering through the trees, distraught, and then we don’t see him ditch it, but he ditches it amongst these trees sort of like a there’s a dark path, and the tree, he looks at it. Next time we see it, the bag is gone. 


Alison Leiby: Okay? 


Halle Kiefer: And we see him reading another poem and reading from the book. And again, we see it’s hand-drawn and we see sort of the adventures of a Possum. And here’s another poem reads. Look at Possum. There he lies. Children meet his lifeless eyes. See his nasty legs and tongue. When he wakens, watch him run. And that one says, Watch him run Alison. That’s so weird. That was in that movie. 


Alison Leiby: Um. Rude. [laughter]


Halle Kiefer: Philip sits, so we see Philip alone Possum-less sitting in the woods near the river.


Alison Leiby: I have a question about possum. 


Halle Kiefer: Yes, please. 


Alison Leiby: What the. 


Halle Kiefer: Ask away. 


Alison Leiby: How is it a puppet? Is it a marionette? Is it?


Halle Kiefer: I think we’re to think it’s a marionette. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: We don’t see it move, but it looks like it is. The legs are attached sort of in a string like way. 


Alison Leiby: Okay yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Like the leg hang from the head. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: So I presume when it’s operational, the heads held up and then the legs are mobile. 


Alison Leiby: Okay great. 


Halle Kiefer: But you’re right, we never see him actually use the puppet. 


Alison Leiby: Okay great. 


Halle Kiefer: So I’m actually not sure about that. 


Alison Leiby: No, I think that that seems likely. 


Halle Kiefer: We see them next to he’s near the river. And he’s he’s clearly he’s there at dawn, like the ground is covered in frost. Every time we see him as he’s it’s like five in the morning and he hears in the woods a man’s voice call Philip. And when he looks up, Possum is just sprawled on the bank in front of him. Possum is back. 


Alison Leiby: Possum is back. 


Halle Kiefer: Back at the house he asks Maurice, can you lend me your tools, please? 


Alison Leiby: Oh boy. 


Halle Kiefer: And there’s also this horrible tension in this filthy house. It’s like suffocating between them. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. Yeah, It’s like all the scenes. Like, if there’s sunlight, it’s like that. Very, like. 


Halle Kiefer: Yes. 


Alison Leiby: Yellow, dusty, like the air feels like, so stale. 


Halle Kiefer: Exactly. Like, almost like, remember before we had glass people would make, like, oil, paper. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Windows. It’s like that. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Yellow diffuse life. And Maurice makes a joke that he’s eating roast fox. And we had seen that Philip saw a fox in the backyard. So I think he’s joking, but also maybe implying that he did catch and eat the fox in the backyard. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And Philip says, oh, you’re dismantling it? And Philip says, yes, I am getting rid of it. I’m taking it apart, I’m burning it, I’m destroying Possum. And Maurice says, pity. Puppetry is the one thing you were good at. It’s like, okay, thanks. I don’t know what to tell you it’s destroying my life, obviously. And Maurice says, Oh, you staying here? And Philip says, Yes, it’s my home. So yes, I will be staying here whenever I want. Maurice then puts out pulls out a wooden puppet with a carved men’s head man’s head that sort of looks like Maurice. It’s like a puppet version, but clearly is like a little. It’s Maurice-like. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And he holds it up and says, My father taught me, runs in the family. 


Alison Leiby: Oy. 


Halle Kiefer: So you know this is about child abuse right. 


Alison Leiby: Of course.


Halle Kiefer: Like as soon as you hear that. Right.


Alison Leiby: That’s what we’re talking about. 


Halle Kiefer: It runs in the family, right? 


Alison Leiby: And Philip retorts, You’re not my father, Maurice. And Maurice’s. He starts to well up like his eyes filled with tears. And he shuts the door but now telling him like, I want my tools back. Again, Philip goes to leave, and when he does, he looks at the closed door next to the front door, but he still does not open it. Alison. Unfortunately, while getting undressed for bed that night, Philip hears on his little like he has a little black and white TV that officers are searching local woodland areas and waste grounds for a missing 14 year old boy who was last seen on the train on his way home from Marshwood Secondary School in Fallmarsh. Alison, it is the boy from the train. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: It’s Michael. His name is. We find out later his name is Michael. The TV cuts to static, and Philip shuts it off. Now, we haven’t seen Philip do anything, but he obviously is extremely freaked out by this and doesn’t know what to do. So he’s gonna go do what he does every day, which is try to get rid of Possum. 


Alison Leiby: It’s like every day. It’s very it’s like Groundhog Day. 


Halle Kiefer: Exactly. And we see Philip walk through the park and we see these two hooligans yell at him, Is that you, pervert? 


Alison Leiby: Mhm. Yeah. I mean you would get that reputation with what he’s been up to.


Halle Kiefer: He is never not running around panic sweating, mouth agape with a spider puppet like. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah alone near children in playgrounds and school.


Halle Kiefer: Like okay. Yeah. Like Philip is back in town. The boys are back in town, the  boys being Philip and his gigantic spider puppet. Alison Philip has gone to the local school. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, no. 


Halle Kiefer: And he’s just standing there staring at it. And a teacher comes out, says, Hey, what are you. What the fuck you doing out here, man? And Philip says, This used to be my school. And the guy says, You got to move on, okay? And Philip says, Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. And again, like any authority, he’s immediately a child again. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: And he physically runs off like he’s sprints off in his trench coat. And, you know, he’s obviously he’s stuck in his childhood. He keeps going to these children’s places, presumably because of the abuse in his house. And we see what his uncle’s like. He sees the home. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: That he grew up in. So, again, he’s trying to get rid of Possum. Possum is the manifestation of his trauma. Normally I wouldn’t call it out. But like, that’s what the movie is. And it’s it’s almost like I will we’ll get to the ending of it. I like that. That we’re not spelling it out right. Like we get it. You don’t. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: It’s not heavy handed. It’s like you’re watching a fairy tale. Like, you know what he’s doing. He has a burden, and it keeps crawling back to him. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Like he cannot abandon it. That being ostensibly like, everyday he thinks about being abused as a child. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: Or, like, whatever happened to him, which we’ll find out. So he arrives at sort of the dark tree tunnel. We see the beginning and he throws the bag into the crook of the tree, which we saw at the beginning of the film, and we cut to him opening the bag. Someone yells his name and he looks up. He’s back in daylight and knowing again, panicking. He grabs the bag and he runs out of the woods. But hey, so that didn’t work. Where is he going to go? So he goes to the fields there’s a bunch of little bridges. He takes the duffel bag with Possum and throws it into a creek. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And he begins to walk home—


Alison Leiby: If you can’t burn the spider, drown the spider. 


Halle Kiefer: Drown it. Just drown it.


Alison Leiby: Just drown it. 


Halle Kiefer: Hey, worth a shot. 


Alison Leiby: It’s something.


Halle Kiefer: He throws in the creek, Alison. He begins to walk home. He immediately tries to run and instead collapses into the mud, which covers his trench coat. And is all over his face. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, God—


Halle Kiefer: This poor bastard like he can’t catch a break. 


Alison Leiby: I know. 


Halle Kiefer: And we cut to this image of Possum being drowned in a bucket of water, and we sort of see its head is like human-esque, but we don’t get the full head yet. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And it’s like, clearly he’s tried to do this before, but like he’s going to keep going. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And he gets up out of the mud he’s gasping and he runs back to the creek. That’s the other thing we see is like, there’ll be some time where he can’t leave it. He has to go back and get it. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: He can’t find the duffel bag, he’s splashing around the water and most of it’s pretty shallow. But then there’s like a deeper area. It was like up to his knees and he’s like fishing around. It’s freezing cold. 


Alison Leiby: Ugh. 


Halle Kiefer: And he climbs back on the bridge and he crosses to the other side where he finds Possum out of the bag, lying in the mud. And at home we finally—


Alison Leiby: I’m like, why do I feel bad for Possum at the moment?


Halle Kiefer: I do too. Like, listen, it’s honestly not Possum’s fault either. 


Alison Leiby: No. 


Halle Kiefer: We see possum hanging on the wall and we finally see it like a bald. Pale, bald human head. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, my God. 


Halle Kiefer: That it doesn’t look exactly like Philip, but it’s not not looking like Philip. You know what I mean?


Alison Leiby: Yeah, yeah.


Halle Kiefer: But it is a eyeless, hairless feature— Like it has a nose and eye holes obviously. But we then hear Philip say, Wait, wait my little child for what is playing dead, Possum with his black balloons will eat you up in bed. Philip, of course, lies in bed, fully clothed, staring at Possum. 


Alison Leiby: Great. 


Halle Kiefer: And he gets up and approaches it and we sort of see him back running across the bridge, running home, and then a bunch of black balloons floating down the street in front of their home. And he looks past the balloons and he sees in the window across the street a bald staring face, Possum’s face. Alison. He closed his eyes, tried to get one goddamn wink of sleep. This poor bastard. 


Alison Leiby: I mean. I bet he gets no sleep ever. 


Halle Kiefer: He opens his eyes to once again find possum laying next to him in bed, staring at him. 


Alison Leiby: No. 


Halle Kiefer: Stretched out alongside him. Alison, at this point in the movie? 


Alison Leiby: No. 


Halle Kiefer: What would you do? 


[voice over]: What would you do? 


Alison Leiby: I think I would have to be like, I can’t try and destroy this anymore. [laughs] I have to just accept. You know, obviously, like, deal with your own trauma. Like therapeutically in ways that you can, but like the possum itself. 


Halle Kiefer: Right. [both speaking] I do think there is some value in going to therapy and talking about Possum. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: But I agree. I think that like because this is more like the fairy tale version of the story. I think there is. And maybe it’s a very American inclination to be like, oh, I need to ground this in reality, I need to explain it. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: You’re absolutely right. The reality is you have to accept it, whatever that looks like. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: You know, whether that’s like actually seeking help or whether we just see it’s sort of like The Babadook, like at the end. 


Alison Leiby: Right.


Halle Kiefer: Spoiler. They have to live with it. And so they learn to have a better relationship with it. See, I thought for sure you were going to say the Alison’s special because I was like, This is untenable. 


Alison Leiby: Well, I mean, there’s no other out. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: Like you either have to, like, accept this, like, horrific life where Possum, the spider puppet, is, like, with you all the time. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: And thus also so is your childhood abuse trauma. But yeah, other than that, I would kill myself. 


Halle Kiefer: Philip rushes down the stairs, he’s got Possum back in the duffel, and he finds Maurice in the kitchen reading the paper, holding his little carved man puppet. And Maurice makes the puppet beckon Philip into the room. I’m like, All right. Okay. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: He says, You want something from the jar? And again, we see this big jar of sweets inside a glass cabinet, they’re all different shades of. It’s very beautiful. A glass green. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And Philip looks at them for a minute and says, What’s in them? And Maurice says, Same as always. 


Alison Leiby: Oh. 


Halle Kiefer: And Philip replies, No then.


Alison Leiby: Interesting. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. Maurice says, Well, all grown up now. And we see Philip and Maurice. And the problem with their relationship is like Maurice is clearly the only person in Philip’s life. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: So it’s like, as disgusting and awful and like, clearly as fucked up as this guy is and like, obviously was a horrible caregiver. He. Philip doesn’t have anyone else. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. Exactly. He doesn’t even know anything else it seems like.


Halle Kiefer: No. Exactly, he doesn’t and Philip lights Maurice’s cigarette and Maurice says to him, Tell me about the fox. And Philip tries to say No, but Maurice demands him to tell a story. So the story is that he and some other boys, when they were again, probably in their in middle school, were out on the marshes, which we just saw with the bridges. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And he sort of built a den out there where they were playing. 


[clip of Sean Harris]: And when we got there, we found a fox. Thought it had swallowed something because it was panting. Whole body was shaking like it was dying. They started to kick it. All of them, yeah.


Halle Kiefer: And then they stuck things in it until it was dead. 


Alison Leiby: Ew.


Halle Kiefer: And they made Philip pick it up. And when he wouldn’t, they shoved his face into the foxes corpse. 


Alison Leiby: Oh. 


Halle Kiefer: And he started to cry and all the boys ran off laughing. 


Alison Leiby: Oh. 


Halle Kiefer: The thing is, Philip says, after a while, after they all left, the Fox opens its eyes and stared at him. And then it stood up and walked away. Alison. Maurice starts laughing so hard he could barely contain himself. 


Alison Leiby: What about that was funny?


Halle Kiefer: He tells Philip, sly bugger. He’s just playing with you. And Maurice hands fill up this tin like a cigarette holder. And he said I believe this is yours. And Philip says, Yeah, like this house Maurice. And Maurice ignores that of course and  says, you know, they’re destroying the old barracks. It’s about time. Black as sin over there. Philip, at the sound of the mention of the barracks goes ghost white. And he always looks bad. But he looks across like by the end this movie it’s like—


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Good Lord. 


Alison Leiby: Noticeably worse. 


Halle Kiefer: Yes. And he grabs a duffel bag and he’s about to leave. But again, he stops at the closed door in the hall and Maurice asks again, going in. But Philip just leaves. Obviously, by end of the movie, he will be going in that door like we know that, right? 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Philip goes again to the woods and we see him emerge behind the old barracks, which we saw in the opening credits. So, you know, he’s going to the barracks. 


Alison Leiby: Mm hmm. 


Halle Kiefer: And it’s all abandoned and he wanders around. He’s got Possum in his little bag. And I’m wondering, we find some mattress covered in leaves and a faded beret that reads Fallmarsh youth cadet. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And we see him just sort of like—


Alison Leiby: Is that like boy scouts? 


Halle Kiefer: Every room is. Wait, say it again? 


Alison Leiby: Is that like Boy Scouts? 


Halle Kiefer: Yes. I think it’s supposed to be like British Boy Scouts. So again, a young man. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: A relic of a young boy’s youth. And he wanders past literally pieces of broken like metal and piles of scrap metal and mattress frames. 


Alison Leiby: Great, great. 


Halle Kiefer: I’m sorry, but this town is a dump. This is a full dump.


Alison Leiby: It is a dump.


Halle Kiefer: And he goes down to this sort of this, like, parking lot behind the barracks that’s all broken up and overgrown with grass. And he takes Possum out, of course. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, of course. 


Halle Kiefer: And finally he lifts him by the head and sort of stares at each other. He lifts Possum above his head. Alison Philip starts lowering Possum’s head towards him. And for a second, I thought they were going to kiss. I thought they were going to—


Alison Leiby: Kiss. 


Halle Kiefer: Kiss. And at the last second, he doesn’t kiss him and he hurls Possum away. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. The right move.


Halle Kiefer: And then he approaches the puppet, and he just starts furiously punching it and pummeling it. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And I will say I like this movie, but a lot of it is just watching a guy kick a puppet’s ass. 


Alison Leiby: I mean, great. 


Halle Kiefer: And I have a lot of bandwidth for that. But just keep that in mind. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: There are certain scenes where it be like he’s just kicking that puppets ass again. 


Alison Leiby: Well. 


Halle Kiefer: Alison, Philip fills the duffel bag with bricks and puts Possum in it before sinking it into. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Sort of the water reserve of the barracks. 


Alison Leiby: That’s something. 


Halle Kiefer: Pushing it down with the board. It sinks. And that’s the last we saw of Possum. Just kidding. You know, that bitch is coming back. [laughter] You know that’s—


Alison Leiby: Possum finds a way.


Halle Kiefer: Philip gets home and he calls for Maurice. And on the kitchen table is the Marshwood Evening news. And on the cover is the abducted kid. It says schoolboy abducted. And it’s the kid from the train. Alison. Oh, sorry. That’s not right. Boop boop boop. Oh, thank goodness. Okay. I was like, Why would I put another? What would you do? We already established that. Okay. [clears throat] As he gets ready for bed, Philip hears Maurice reading aloud from his journal, which he’s clearly found under the floorboard and says, Possum, how he came into the world 1978 by Philip Connelly and Philip horrified, emerges from his bedroom and slowly makes his way down the hall to Maurice’s room. As Maurice reads out loud after the fire Possum was it he who blackened the very sun above our town? Possum does his face. Not sorry. Does he not? Does his stare not? Sorry. Possum. Does his stare not seem like the face of walking death? Behold how he came into the world. And Philip comes down the stairs and it’s very childlike. It’s sort of like a child approaching their their parents bedroom. Right. And he finds Maurice reading amidst stacks and stacks of papers, like, well, that’s the fire hazard. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: You know what I mean like it’s just papers and boxes and he says to Maurice, Where did you get that? Maurice says, Oh, it fell. Bitch, it fell out of the floor?


Alison Leiby: Yeah. That no. No. 


Halle Kiefer: Luckily Philip calls him a liar and snatches it from him and Maurice starts laughing and has this horrible, wheezing, laugh, and Philip sits and, smokes a cigarette and Maurice says, is it dead yet? And Philip ignores the question, says. You won’t see me again, Maurice. And Maurice says people are talking you know. Don’t you read the papers? Alison. Philip asked him. Why didn’t you burn it, Maurice? Oh, sorry. Philip asks Maurice. Why didn’t you burn? Why wasn’t it you? So why didn’t you die in the fire Maurice? 


Alison Leiby: Oh. Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And Maurice just laughs and laughs and silly starts coughing and wheezing. That’s pretty much that guy’s pastime is coughing. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Maniacally until he starts coughing. 


Alison Leiby: He loves a cough, a wheeze. 


Halle Kiefer: You gotta. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Back in his room, Philip pages through his Possum journal, and he finally starts to cry, which I hope I’m like, Oh, this guy needs some relief. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And he lays down. He puts his hand on his journal and shuts off the light. But when he goes to sleep, keeps his hand on his journal. Obviously, he doesn’t want Maurice to take it anymore. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: The next day, we see Philip go look at the train station. So kind of looking around and ends up back at the barracks eventually. And we see inside the tin, the cigarette tin the Maurice gave back to him. We see his hand-rolled cigarettes and then also a photo of Philip’s parents. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Who, of course, have died. And we as soon as we see the parents we see, we zoom in on that perpetually closed door, which we can assume is their bedroom. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And we see Philip is, Possum, is nowhere to be seen. We know that Philip tried to ditch him again. Philip is walking at frosty dawn and he finds a frozen fox corpse. Next to the path. Alison. He walks by. When he turns back, the fox is alive and watching him. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Of course. Philip arrives back home. He calls for Maurice, no answer. And he goes to his room. And you better believe Possum’s back, baby, he’s hanging on the wall. 


Alison Leiby: Possum is not missing the opportunity to come hang out. 


Halle Kiefer: No, you know, he’s a great hang. As we sort of see the dawn break over this that freezing, muddy field that we’ve seen Philip in, we see we hear him say. Happy valley painted black. All the children in a sack. Wave goodbye to sun and moon. Say hello to black balloon. 


Alison Leiby: Hmm. 


Halle Kiefer: At home, we see Philip light, his lighter and for a second you think he’s going to burn his Possum journal, but instead he stands up and he looks face to face with Possum on the wall. But before he could burn him then them. He hears Maurice coughing, you know coughing and moving things around in the backyard. Maurice’s past time.


Alison Leiby: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s like, I got to do some wheezing. Do you mind if I do it in here? 


Halle Kiefer: Exactly. And what will help with his wheezing is that Maurice is burning a bunch of papers in a barrel in the backyard. 


Alison Leiby: Great. 


Halle Kiefer: Their burning barrel. 


Alison Leiby: Great. 


Halle Kiefer: And he’s just inhaling all that smoke. So Philip joins him and drags Possum over to the barrel. Maurice gives him a cigarette and lights it for him, they smoke. And we see Philip clutching Possum. And I think we see Philip clutching Possum. And I think this is like an important moment because he’s always sort of like, repulsed by or like pushing Possum away. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And then with his uncle, he’s literally hold it clutching possum like a teddy bear. So I think it’s also like this is this is a creature he made during childhood. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: As, it’s horrifying, but it is protective in a lot of ways.


Alison Leiby: Yes. Comfort. Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And so we see the Maurice of the papers he’s about to burn is the paper with the missing boy Michael on it and says, Well you remember, Philip, this happened before, during your time after the fire. And I looked and you know, it’s your school. I taught you there once remember? That business with the fox. After that happened, a colleague asked me to come in and teach you boys a lesson. And we showed them, didn’t we? Petrified they were. Philip’s like doesn’t reply. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Instead takes Possum again the physical manifestation of everything we’re alluding to here puts Possum in the burning barrel and Maurice’s hands him a shovel and Philips smashes Possum down into the fire. And as Philip sobs, Maurice recalls the details of the abduction that happened when Philip was a kid. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: He says, stuffed them all inside a bag. Didn’t he? Wore a mask? And Philip’s  sobbing and Maurice says. I had no idea. I’m sorry. And actually apologizes. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And he hands Philip one of the sweets from the jar and says, I had no idea. And Philip takes it, but he starts gagging and he storms away. And Maurice watches as the Possum burns. Unfortunately, Alison, that night, Philip wakes up to footsteps coming up the stairs. 


Alison Leiby: Little tiny footsteps?


Halle Kiefer: No, unfortunately. Adult man’s footsteps. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, man. 


Halle Kiefer: I wish they were little spider foot, but at this point, I would take. I would take possum. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, I would take possum over any other character, any day. 


Halle Kiefer: [laughs] Yeah. And we see the black balloons. Oh, sorry. We see the orange and yellow balloons enveloped in smoke again, sort of becoming blackened. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And we see scenes of Possum sort of moving of his own volition through the mud, through the the the barracks. And we see a long shot of the doorway downstairs that’s never opened. And in his dreams, Philip takes a pale green candy from Maurice’s big jar and eats it as this pounding continues. And it continues. And the sound is kind of underpinning everything. And in his dream, at the end of the bed is the duffle bag. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And Possum emerges, emerges from it, and then suddenly crawls quickly up the bed and Philip wakes in a panic. And when he does, he looks down and sees there’s a spider crawling across the floor. 


Alison Leiby: A regular one?


Halle Kiefer: He wakes up, just a regular spider, standard spider and he doesn’t know what the spiders like this has nothing to do with me. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, I just happened to be here. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. Wrong place, wrong time. 


Halle Kiefer: He hears. He continues to hear the pounding, and we realize it’s not pounding, it’s not footsteps. There’s somebody pounding at the front door. It’s the middle of the night. He starts to descend the stairs, and we hear a police radio outside. And we see a flashlight being shined in. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, no. 


Halle Kiefer: He sort of stays in the landing and the cop eventually leaves. It’s the middle of the night. But of course, the police have come to talk to him about the abduction of the boy. 


Alison Leiby: Yes, of course. 


Halle Kiefer: But when the police leave leaves, Alison, he still hears the pounding. And we see it’s not wasn’t footsteps coming up the stairs. It wasn’t the police at the door. The pounding is coming from inside the room with the eternally closed door. And Alison, I now ask you, who will survive? 


[voice over]: Who will survive? 


Alison Leiby: I hope Philip survives and that he, you know, I guess like spider the Possum. Possum the spider? Spider the possum? Possum the spider. 


Halle Kiefer: Mm hmm. 


Alison Leiby: Will maybe eventually be destroyed as he comes to terms with his own personal history. I think Maurice—


Halle Kiefer: How about Maurice, do you think Maurice will die?


Alison Leiby: I think he’ll die. 


Halle Kiefer: Mm hmm. And what about the Michael, the abducted boy? 


Alison Leiby: Mm. I think he’s going to survive. 


Halle Kiefer: Okay, great. Philip goes back upstairs to sleep in the morning he goes down to open that damn door and say what you will have Philip. He’s like, he’s not not trying. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: He’s not trying. He’s trying to figure this the fuck out and move on. But before he could get the door open, he chickens out. He goes to the kitchen. But Maurice is nowhere to be seen. Upstairs. He turns the TV on and he sees a police reporter talk about the abducted boy, Alison. The police say they’re looking for a man who they think could be a suspect. 


[clip of Susie Fowler-Watt]: Officers are investigating reports of a man acting suspiciously near woodlands and waste ground close to a former military barracks in the area of Fullmarsh. 


Alison Leiby: See, this is why you don’t do that. Even if you have— [both speaking] You are suspect one. 


Halle Kiefer: Yes. 


Alison Leiby: Every time. 


Halle Kiefer: When you are frantically open mouthed, sobbing, running around in a filthy trench coat in a small town like people do notice, I’m sorry. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah with a bag that has a giant spider puppet—


Halle Kiefer: That you’re, like frantically trying to drown. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, it just it’s a, like even if you have nothing to do with a crime, it’s just a tough look. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. And they also say that this man has been seen with the boy. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, no. 


Halle Kiefer: And we flashback to them on the train. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Philip runs over and shuts the TV off, and then he heads out to the bridges. He goes to the bridges. He goes to the mountains. You literally just see him, like, go revisit every place. Alison, when he gets the barracks, the cops are there clearly looking for Michael, clearly being like, okay. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: So somebody maybe saw this guy wandering the barracks. Did he throw Michael in the water? 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: Is he stashed somewhere? Hopefully, you know, alive? Philip goes home and he starts searching in the barrel for Possum. So he’s not looking for Michael. He’s looking for Possum. He he needs Possum back. 


Alison Leiby: He needs possum. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, because Possum is his constant companion. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Maurice shows up and says someone came here looking for you. The law. I told them you weren’t here. But don’t worry. He’ll turn up. And Philip’s like turn up? How it’ll turn up. We burned him, referring to Possum. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And Maurice says, No, no, no, you’re confused. Maurice tells them, I’m going away and when I’m gone, don’t bring trouble home, these bloody kids. Alison. Philip heads back to his old school.


Alison Leiby: Oh boy.


Halle Kiefer: And he finally works up the courage to go inside. And this scene fucks me up. It’s just so sad because he’s. He’s having a breakdown. Like he’s sobbing. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: He’s sweating, he looks awful and he’s talking to, like the office assistant said, and he says, Could I talk to Mr. Grant? He was my former teacher when I was here. He knows all about what happened and he told me he’d go to the police with me. So again, Philip clearly confided in a teacher at the time of the abuse. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And then nothing happened. So I don’t know. We don’t know whether he didn’t want to go whether the teacher ended up not going with him. But someone did know. He did tell a teacher and the teacher told him to go to the place. And now Philip is there. He just needs help. He can’t think of anybody else. And the office assistant is is just like, okay, just wait right here. And he goes. But of course, he could hear through the door and he hears Mr. Grant say, okay, well, you call them and I’ll keep him here. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: He’s calling the police. 


Alison Leiby: Of course. 


Halle Kiefer: Because they’re all assuming like—


Alison Leiby: He’s fitting this suspect portrait that they painted. 


Halle Kiefer: Exactly. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Alison, poor Philip goes back to the abandoned barracks. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, no. 


Halle Kiefer: And he holds a photo of his parents, and it starts to rain black soot. And he looks down and it’s just black rain pouring all over him. And it’s like a grief abuse, like. 


Alison Leiby: Of course. 


Halle Kiefer: Inescapable, like agony of what has happened to him. And he goes back to the fields and he runs through the woods and we see Possum chasing him. And he keeps seeing these different scenes, he wake. He wakes up again in the barracks and we see Possums, long legs appear sort of down from the roof. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And these are all images we saw earlier in his dream, sort of like. 


Alison Leiby: Oh, okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Possum mobile, because we’ve never actually seen possum. 


Alison Leiby: On the go? 


Halle Kiefer: Like, I don’t think he can actually move. Yeah. Like, I think these are all like the barrier between his dream life and waking life is starting to dissolve as he’s like slowly losing his mind. And also the barracks is like, soaked and leaking and like, he finds outside Possum lying on the concrete, and he’s sort of sitting on the duffel bag. And finally, Philip falls to his knees in front of Possum. And Possum, reaches up his little spider leg and puts it on Philip’s shoulder. 


Alison Leiby: I kind of like love Possum now—


Halle Kiefer: I do too. 


Alison Leiby: Even though he’s, you know, manifestation of horrific trauma. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. And I think that’s what we’re supposed to think. Like he puts his little hand on Philip shoulder, and then Philip wakes up and he chokes out. He spits out the green candy his uncle gave him. 


Alison Leiby: Uh huh. 


Halle Kiefer: And we hear now Maurice is reading the poem. It says, Open the parcel out it sprang the black legged long possum man. Children run. He’ll eat and smother any child without a mother. And I think like both like Possum comforting a lot like allowing him to expel this green candy that his uncle’s been putting inside him. Now, Philip has broken from his life. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. That pattern yeah.


Halle Kiefer: So when he comes back to the house, he’s enraged. He’s not sad. He’s not apologetic. 


Alison Leiby: Okay? 


Halle Kiefer: He’s not passive aggressive. He’s screaming. Maurice. Maurice. He’s tearing the house apart, looking for the uncle. He can’t find him. So he starts slamming his own head against the wall. And we see Possum. Look at him. And I don’t know if we’re suppos— Because, like, obviously, it’s shot in a certain way, but when we finally see Possum’s head back at him, it is Philip’s face. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: It is like a ghostly inverse version of him. Right. Philip is finally breaking, like he’s breaking reality. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: But he’s also breaking from the reality that he’s been in, which is. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Every day is a struggle. He’s white knuckling it. The only thing he’s been able to cope is to create Possum. Now he’s breaking out of it, which of course means he has to go to the closed door of the room he cannot go in. 


Alison Leiby: Yes, he must. 


Halle Kiefer: And he opens it and we see the room is completely burned and has never been fixed. So there’s soot everywhere. It is, of course, his parent’s room. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: There’s soot and ash on every surface. There’s a headboard with no mattress and a bunch of old clothes just on the ground. He finds a jar full of teeth.


Alison Leiby: Oh. What? 


Halle Kiefer: And he turns and out of the shadows leaps a man in a mask. Who wrestles Philips to the ground, before removing his mask. It’s Maurice, obviously. 


Alison Leiby: Yes, of course. 


Halle Kiefer: And he says, Come to see mommy and daddy? Dirty boy playing with the dead. And Philip, immediately like is a child again, like Philip is sobbing. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah of course. 


Halle Kiefer: No, no, as anyone would be, you know, in that moment. And he starts berating and slapping and punching Philip while he’s on top of him and he says, Don’t worry, Uncle Maurice is here with his fingers. Have you missed my fingers? Have you missed them? Philip, of course, says, No. 


Alison Leiby: No, no one misses his fingers. 


Halle Kiefer: Maurice says, Open up and then jams his fingers into Philip’s sobbing mouth. 


Alison Leiby: Oh. 


Halle Kiefer: And Philip, Maurice screams, Turn over, trousers down, and he tells Philip, you knew it was me out by the barracks. You knew I worked everywhere. And now they’re hunting you. Which I think we’re to believe. Like you knew when that abduction happened, when you were young, that it was me. You knew when those boys were abducted that you know, the man in the mask. That was me. You know, I abducted this boy. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: But now they’re hunting you. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: I passed this on to you, basically. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: And Maurice takes out his belt. And he just starts beating Philip’s bare ass with the belt. 


Alison Leiby: Ugh. 


Halle Kiefer: And I wrote. I’m gonna need Possum to come and fucking kill this guy. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, just rip Maurice limb from limb, because that’s the, what he deserves.


Halle Kiefer: Exactly and that’s what I thought was going to happen. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: But as Maurice starts to like, beat him. He’s like, I’m going to give you, like, classic six is like, whipping him six time, six times. Philip, hears something moving in the trunk. And in that moment he hears it, he realizes Michael, the boy is in that trunk. 


Alison Leiby: Oh. 


Halle Kiefer: And that gives him the strength to wrestle Maurice to the ground. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah because there’s like—


Halle Kiefer: Sits on him.


Alison Leiby: Something to fight for. 


Halle Kiefer: Exactly. He sits on him. And when he sits on Maurice’s lap, basically, Maurice says, Can you feel that boy? And starts laughing. 


Alison Leiby: Oh. 


Halle Kiefer: Philip looks at Maurice Alison and he looks down and he snaps this motherfucker’s neck. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: And he goes to the trunk and he opens it, revealing Michael, the abducted boy who is alive, very freaked out, obviously. And he scrambles away and runs out of the house. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And we end on Philip in the backyard, holding the head of Possum, the puppet staring in the middle distance. But he does look a lot better. The end. 


Alison Leiby: Okay. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. Alison—


Alison Leiby: I’ll take it. 


Halle Kiefer: What are some fatal mistakes?


Alison Leiby: I’ll take it.


Halle Kiefer: Okay. What are some fatal mistakes you think were made in the movie Possum? 


[voice over]: Fatal mistakes. 


Alison Leiby: I mean, as always, processing trauma. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, I’m gonna say the main mistake was having Maurice as an uncle. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah, like, still being there. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: Not not that it’s like on Philip to like know to be like I have to disentangle myself from my abusive uncle who abducts and murders people including my family like. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: But. You know, Maurice sucked. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. And the implication about the parents death is, like they died in a fire in their room. But then you see Maurice smoking in a room full of papers, and I took that to be like, maybe it wasn’t intentional, but he did set that fire. 


Alison Leiby: He let them die. 


Halle Kiefer: And they died because of it. 


Halle Kiefer: Yes. 


Alison Leiby: So I don’t think it was like I don’t think that’s necessarily supposed to be arson. I could be wrong about that. But I think it’s like his negligence led to the parent’s death. 


Halle Kiefer: Yes. 


Alison Leiby: Which then set up Philip up to be raised in a sexually and physically and psychologically abusive home. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Listen, honestly, considering all that happened to him, becoming a disgraced children’s puppeteer is actually pretty good. 


Alison Leiby: Honestly. I mean, also, thank God for Possum the spider. Who? At least is a representation of that. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, it is sort of like—


Alison Leiby: Grief? 


Halle Kiefer: It is like The Babadook where it’s like at the end. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: I thought Possum was going to come and just start kicking ass, which I was very excited about. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. I was really ready for like a big Possum fight scene. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, but maybe it was it had to be Philip because he’s, like, taking his power back. He’s doing the thing that he wished he had done. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Rather than having the puppet do it for him. I don’t even know if the puppet really could. And I’m glad that Michael, the boy, was abducted. I am concerned he will tell the police that it was Philip. But.


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: I think that given the fact that there’s all this history of abduction, he can pretty clearly point to the uncle doing it. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.


Halle Kiefer: And I hope that they catch him a break. And other than that, though, I mean, what are you gonna do if a puppet keeps coming back to you? 


Alison Leiby: I mean, I think a lot of us would get stuck in that cycle, you know.


Alison Leiby: Easily. 


Halle Kiefer: And then finally, where would you put Possum on the spooky scale, Alison? 


[voice over]: A spooky scale. 


Alison Leiby: Boy, this. I’m going to give this an eight. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, it’s a tough one. 


Alison Leiby: It’s tough. Like, the subject matter is tough. The visuals are tough. It feels like you’d never get to really, like, exhale. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: So eight for me. What about you? 


Halle Kiefer: I’m going to give it a six. I think it’s very disturbing. But in terms of being scary, I think it definitely falls more on the, like, extremely sad side of things with, like, at a certain point. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: You know, or I felt like, well, the puppet is not going to do anything to him because it already would have. Right. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: So a lot of it, I was like, okay, well, it’s not going to be the puppet. It’s it’s going to end up being something with his uncle who was so obviously a malevolent figure that to me, it’s almost like when he was running around, it was almost kind of like a break from, like being back in the house. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And so but I really liked it. It was just more of like a dread, like a spreading dread versus scary or spooky. 


Alison Leiby: Yes, yes. 


Halle Kiefer: Which again, I wouldn’t recommend if you’re someone who doesn’t like, scary either way. Like, I think that it is—


Alison Leiby: Yeah. It’s still a tough sell if. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: And visually terrifying. Visually. Really, really horrifying. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: So I would say that would be. I’m going to go with six. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. Okay. Six. That feels good. Averaging to a seven between us. 


Halle Kiefer: Absolutely. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining us. This was, again, not. We didn’t succeed in scaring Alison to death, but the mission continues. 


Alison Leiby: We’re getting closer. 


Halle Kiefer: We’re getting closer by the day. 


Alison Leiby: This was a really good one and one I didn’t know existed. And I guess now I do. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah, I like I get I feel like there’s so many movies where I sort of have to spell out the trauma. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: It’s like, you don’t have to spell it. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah. 


Halle Kiefer: Like, just give us like, a little bit. [both speaking] We can piece together the rest. you don’t have to be so on the nose with it, you know? 


Alison Leiby: Agreed. Yeah. This was nice. This feels like a nice adaptation of, like, kind of showing that. 


Halle Kiefer: Yeah. Like if you’re going to be about trauma. The movie’s about trauma and that, like. 


Alison Leiby: Right. 


Halle Kiefer: Let’s fucking get into it. It’s not. I’m going to say out loud or what happened or like, you know, that kind of thing. But.


Alison Leiby: I think I just saw the fly in your apartment. Fly by the camera. [laughs]


Halle Kiefer: Damn it. Yeah it’s right here. I’m going to kill him. 


Alison Leiby: Kill him. 


Halle Kiefer: Or I guess they. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us, everybody. 


Alison Leiby: Yes. 


Halle Kiefer: We hope you enjoyed that one. That was that was a greasy, grimy, tough one. 


Alison Leiby: Yeah for sure. 


Halle Kiefer: But I really enjoyed it. Really, really well done. Okay. Until next time, everyone, please do your best. As you always do. 


Alison Leiby: To keep it spooky. [music plays] Don’t forget to follow us at Ruined podcasts and Crooked Media for show updates. And if you’re as opinionated as we are, consider dropping us a review. Ruined is a Radio Point and Crooked Media production, we’re your writers and hosts Halle Kiefer and Alison Leiby. The show is executive produced by Alex Bach, Sabrina Fonfeder and Houston Snyder, and recorded and edited by Kat Iossa. From Crooked Media our executive producer is Kendra James with production and promotional support from Ari Schwartz, Kyle Seglin, Julia Beach, Caroline Dunphy, and Ewa Okulate.