Housebound (2014)

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I don’t want to give away too much about Housebound. It’s a horror comedy that manages to dance its way through a number of subgenres in a way quite unlike any other movie I can think of in recent years. The fact that it uses the elements of each subgenre to its advantage, and never fumbles, is quite an achievement.

Morgana O’Reilly stars as troubled Kylie Bucknell, a young woman who has been in trouble with the authorities a number of times and is given one last chance to get herself in order after her latest arrest. Her sentence is lenient, only eight months, but it’s to be served out in her mother’s home. Kylie has a boundary set, and the bracelet on her ankle should ensure that she doesn’t run away. Which turns out to be quite a hindrance when it starts to look like the house might be haunted.

Written and directed by Gerard Johnstone, Housebound is a near-perfect mix of great characters, great dialogue and great delivery. Considering that it’s Johnstone’s feature debut, after working in TV for a while, the final result is all the more impressive.

O’Reilly is great in the lead role. She has a bad attitude from the very beginning, but the script and her performance both conspire to keep her likable. In fact, just when she’s at her worst and may lose the audience, Johnstone then starts to up the tension and show why this young woman might be the best person to deal with a situation that requires no small amount of bravery and determination. Rima Te Wiata, on the other hand, is the exact opposite as Kylie’s mother, Miriam. She’s a delight from the first moment to the last. And then there’s Glen-Paul Waru as Amos, also providing humour and another character to root for as the story unfolds. He starts off as the man fitting Kylie’s ankle bracelet, and soon turns, hilariously, into much more. Any one of these characters could have stolen the entire movie, and it’s a testament to the whole mix that they instead all get a chance to shine. Cameron Rhodes, Millen Baird and Ross Harper are also very good, but the film chooses, wisely, to focus on the trio of Kylie, Miriam and Amos as things start to bump louder in the night.

Although it was made on a pretty small budget, Housebound never looks and feels like any compromises have been made. Oh, I’m sure there were some tough choices, but what ended up onscreen all works so well that the cast and crew can now just sit back and breathe a huge sigh of relief after a job well done. It’s playful, it’s tense at times, it WILL make you laugh out loud, and it includes the line “you can’t punch ectoplasm”. It is, in short, one of my new favourite films.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: GERARD JOHNSTONE
STARS: MORGANA O’REILLY, RIMA TE WIATA, GLEN-PAUL WARU, CAMERON RHODES, MILLEN BAIRD, ROSS HARPER
RUNTIME: 109 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: NEW ZEALAND

Film Rating: ★★★★½

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