Director: Gerald Johnstone
Cast: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Cameron Rhodes
Plot: A delinquent is put under house arrest for eight months, which becomes a problem when her mother’s claims that the house is haunted begin to look very possible.
This movie has been on my radar for quite some time now, but it has only just become accessible via UK iTunes. However, thanks to some rave reviews across the internet, I made sure I didn’t waste another second of sinking my teeth into this horror. I was not disappointed.
Housebound isn’t so much of a straight horror. Sure, it has its fair share of scary moments, but it seems much more preoccupied with being either a thriller, a comedy or even a murder mystery story. In many ways, this is the one thing that holds Housebound back from being that perfect movie. There are just one too many genres crammed into this flick to the point where a handful of moments are tragically undercooked. Horror fans might also be dissuaded at one too many twists. A late act twist suddenly gives us a brilliant villain to root for, but one last final twist kills off the possibility of a final half hour of dread. However, on the other hand, fans of a good old conspiracy story will love the twisting and turning plot. It does each slice of genre well in its own way. Yes, the horror might be stilted, but there are a few great jump scares. A hand grabbing someone’s ankle at the perfect moment. A creepy toy positioned in the right place. The highlight of the movie for me was the power cut, where we are treated to a pitch black screen with the characters chatting away. The pay-off is predictable, but good fun. The comedy works just as well too. Horror comedy is becoming one of those sub-genres that is beginning to annoy me, as too often it is becoming the norm with cinema that every horror needs a comic relief angle that negates from the dread of the picture. Housebound does sacrifice a good atmosphere on occasion for a laugh-out loud moment, but it does so sparingly. And usually, its laughs are worth the lack of scares. Amos, the security guard in charge of making sure house-arrest subject, Kylie, keeps to her sentence, is the star of the show, his casual wit never crowding the movie, yet providing just enough light-hearted moments to make Housebound’s angle of comedy work. Also, as a healthy side effect, Housebound seems to have picked up on Marvel’s lesson. If you need to make us like a character fairly quickly, having him break a few self-depreciating jokes does wonders for your screenplay.
Morgana O’Reilly does a terrific job of playing the hero female in the centre of all of this madness. I was beginning to worry when the movie started. Kylie is a rebellious young adult who the writers seem to be trying their utmost to get us to hate with a passion. She runs rings around her worn-out mother (Rima Te Wiata deserves praise as well for some natural and kooky dialogue), is frustratingly devoid of redemptive features and wears a teenage scowl like a badge of honour. This is coupled with my last B Movie Wednesday’s review, where I began to tire of the routine female action hero in a horror turning around and saving the day. Luckily, Johnstone is too smart a director to let this become a problem. Slowly, the character, whose unlikeability turns out to fuel the early stages of the plot, rather than hinder the later acts, warms to you, especially when she begins diving into the mystery before her. She isn’t so much the badass action hero, as the only competent person in the plot. There is no frustrating scowls at your TV screen, when the horror movie victim refuses to arm herself. Kylie comes across as more like the only sane person in thr story, rather than a superhuman solider like You’re Next’s Erin. Not that there aren’t some gripping action set-pieces thrown into the mix. Look out for Kylie’s brutal use of a cheese grater as a weapon. She might just be your new favourite horror movie heroine.
Final Verdict: Smart, scary, funny and interesting. Maybe it fails to balance all of these perfectly, but it is inventive enough that you don’t mind the occasional flaw.