Housebound (2014)

Housebound (2014)Starring Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru

Directed by Gerard Johnstone

When an attempted ATM robbery goes awry due to her bungling partner in crime, mad-at-the-world Kylie Bucknell (O’Reilly) finds herself sentenced to a spell under house arrest at her all-but-estranged mother’s large, creepy home. Seems the judge is more convinced that some forced time around her caring mother, Miriam (Wiata), would do more for her rehabilitation than being locked up in a prison cell – though Kylie quickly finds that she probably would have preferred that approach when her mother reveals that the house is haunted by a restless spirit!

Thus begins the hugely entertaining Kiwi romp Housebound. Initially dismissive of her mother’s seemingly wild claims, Kylie is thrust headlong into the ghostly mystery of the house following multiple spooky encounters. Aided by the super-lovable Amos (Waru), the security guard in charge of monitoring her electronic tag who just happens to also be a closet paranormal investigator/enthusiast, Kylie sets about investigating the secret history of the house in order to figure just who this ghost may be and how to put it to rest.

It isn’t that simple though, and as Housebound progresses, the twists and turns just keep coming, offering up surprise after surprise, the kind of which it would simply be rude to disclose here – and thus this will be short.

The likeability of Kylie in the early stages of the film acts as somewhat of a barrier to entry – her constant scowling, caustic attitude and misanthropic demeanour are difficult and wearing, but well balanced against her mother’s attempts to connect. As the story develops, so do the characters as they are forced to band together and appreciate each other’s input, every one of them blossoming all the while throughout a script packed full of razor-sharp dialogue and excellently defined characters – all of whom will hold a place in your heart by the end. The cast are uniformly brilliant, bringing real life to their individual characters with such success and chemistry that there really isn’t a weak link to be found among them.

Housebound packs in an eclectic variety of elements, being genuinely spooky at points, but also absolutely hilarious – even at occasionally inappropriate moments. It’s quirky, tense, scary and very, very funny, blending all of its ingredients in a manner that never feels less than organic and keeps the storyline moving along with captivating strength, bolstered by some excellent production design. Here is a horror/comedy mash that juggles multiple elements without dropping a single one and takes each of them completely seriously. There’s no stupidity or knowing self-referential attempts at humour to be found here – Housebound is a film with a story to tell that wants to frighten you, thrill you and entertain you. And boy, does it do all of those.

An action-packed final act sees every narrative element collide in a finale that blows straight off the scale in entertainment value to the extent that you’ll find it hard not to just start the whole thing over again, and when all is almost said and done, the film reveals that magical ingredient holding it all together: sheer heart. Housebound is brilliant. A triumph; absolutely intoxicating in its accomplishment. Avoiding simply reeling off a list of superlatives, let’s just leave it at this: Housebound is a genre fan’s dream – the best horror comedy in a long, long time and easily an instant classic. See. This. Film.

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Gareth Jones

Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.

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