Friday, December 5, 2014

"Housebound" Review - Written by Jim Herling

Housebound, written and directed by first-time director Gerard Johnstone, has a lot of buzz about it coming out of the gate. It's won awards at multiple film festivals and been praised by folks like Peter Jackson. I guess it's true what they say: everyone loves a good haunted house story. For my part, Housebound left me... well, disappointed isn't the right word, but definitely surprised.

Taking its name from the predicament of its main character, Housebound is the story of Kylie (played wonderfully by Morgana O'Reilly), a would-be thief who is caught mid-theft and sentenced to house arrest in her mother's home for the supposed stability it will offer her. This was the idea of her caseworker and therapist Dennis (Cameron Rhodes, who is simultaneously smooth and off-putting). To Kylie this is a fate worse than death, because she has a strained relationship with her mother Miriam (the scene-stealing Rima Te Wiata) and Miriam's boyfriend Graeme (Ross Harper, who plays Graeme as sort of comically uninvolved in the proceedings until he shows surprising depth, and he's wonderful at both aspects of the character). The strain is mostly due to Miriam being a ditzy loon who thinks the house is haunted by a ghost in an actual old sheet, and Kylie being a thundering bitch, but a charismatic one. Their relationship is great fun to watch, and it makes up the bulk of the comedy in this horror comedy. The main cast is rounded out by Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the officer in charge of making sure Kylie doesn't violate the boundaries of her house arrest, who is also an incredibly likable bumbler.

The fact that Amos is also a knowledgeable believer in ghosts and the occult who readily believes Miriam and eventually helps convince Kylie as well is a coincidence that is just too much of a stretch though, and it took me right out of the movie.

That might be the movie's only real flaw though. It sucked me right back in with its witty dialogue, its laughs, and its suspense. If Housebound could be said to have another flaw, it's that it is very light on actually scares. It really is more of a thriller comedy. A thrillmedy, if you will. In fact it seems that, more than anything, Johnstone wanted to subvert the expected tropes of the horror genre; Housebound has a very fun plot twist towards the end that surprised me when I finally realized it. And if the goal was to subvert the genre, then the film's flaws actually work in its favor. Either way you slice it then, Housebound is a movie with seeing. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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