If you’ve been dreaming of a Kiwi terror take on The Sixth Sense as it meets Home Alone blended with Bad Ronald, then you’ve come to the right place. Writer-director Gerard Johnstone’s new feature Housebound (review) cleverly twists and shifts genres into a mysterious, hilarious Rubik’s Cube of haunted-house suspenser, whodunit and family comedy. But first and foremost, Housebound succeeds as a horror film – it’s got some great jump scares, a compelling plot-twisty mystery, and oh yes: plenty of gore.
What makes it succeed is Johnstone’s nearly flawless juggling act – he never allows the humor to overshadow the scares. The actors’ deadpan delivery of droll dialogue is delish, and the kills are quite wicked. We got a chance to ask Johnstone about his formula for success, and here’s what he had to say.
Dread Central: First of all, allow me to applaud you for successfully pulling off a movie that crosses so many genre lines – it’s a comedy, it’s horror, mystery, and a character-driven suspense film! Was this something you set out to do, or did the whole vibe come together organically as you were writing?
Gerard Johnstone: Thanks! I wish it came together organically. It was definitely a case of biting off more than I could chew, trying to blend those genres with multiple plot twists, fun fights, gory deaths, big reveals, all the stuff that makes you excited about going to the movies in the first place.
DC: Your casting is spot-on. How’d you snag your leads? Were they all on board in advance, or did you have anyone come in at the last minute?
GJ: I’d seen Morgana in a few things and knew she’d be great. Rima was on a sketch comedy show in the 90s but hadn’t been in anything in years; she just turned up to audition. She’s indicative of the sad state of the NZ screen industry, she was basically like a Kristen Wiig in her day, but there’s never been enough work for her. I’m super proud of her performance in the film. Glen-Paul Waru and Ryan Lampp were good mates of mine. Millen Baird is someone I’d been wanting to work with for a long time. He’s sort of like NZ’s answer to Will Ferrell. (I’m assuming these “Saturday Night Live” references are useful.)
DC: Oh, yes. Thanks for that. Now let’s see if you can incorporate “SNL” into your next answer… Please describe a good death scene or moment of horror, and then tell us something about what it was like to shoot.
JG: Well, we have a big moment where our two leads get covered in blood. I had the death scene in mind early on and then worked backwards to figure out how to earn it in the narrative, but it was pretty tenuous; it really was just an excuse to paint the walls red. Problem was, on our tiny budget and schedule, we only had time to do it once, and I’d never done anything in less than eight takes for the entire movie. But I think the good Lord Jesus is actually a huge fan of splatter and we were totally blessed with that shot. I couldn’t have crafted the blood spray on Morgana and Rima’s face better if I’d done it by hand.
DC: What’s your next film project going to be like? If you can’t say, then what are some of your goals – stay in the horror playground, or do you want to do other things?
JG: I have to come clean: I had no intention of becoming a horror filmmaker before I wrote Housebound. But I’ve always been a big fan of the genre, and I studied very hard in preparation to make a horror, so I really do feel part of the fraternity now. The next project I have lined up is in the horror spectrum, but more towards the adventure/thriller end. After that it might be a sports biopic.
Directed by Gerard Johnstone, the film stars Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Cameron Rhodes, Millen Baird, Ross Harper, Bruce Hopkins, Ryan Lampp, Ian Mune, and Wallace Chapman.
Housebound Release Details
XLrator Media is handling US distribution of the horror-comedy HOUSEBOUND and will release the film October 17, 2014, on its acclaimed “MACABRE” genre label in theatres and on VOD and iTunes.
HOUSEBOUND is Gerard Johnstone’s feature film debut. It was produced by Luke Sharpe for Semi-Professional Pictures; executive produced by Ant Timpson, Daniel Story, and Chris Lambert; and funded by the New Zealand Film Commission.
Kylie Bucknell is forced to return to the house she grew up in when the court places her on home detention. Her punishment is made all the more unbearable by the fact she has to live there with her mother, Miriam – a well-intentioned blabbermouth who’s convinced that the house is haunted. Kylie dismisses Miriam’s superstitions as nothing more than a distraction from a life occupied by boiled vegetables and small town gossip. However, when she, too, becomes privy to unsettling whispers and strange bumps in the night, she begins to wonder whether she’s inherited her mother’s overactive imagination or if the house is in fact possessed by a hostile spirit who’s not particularly thrilled about her return.