CAPSULE: A 20-ish delinquent is sentenced by the court to eight months' house arrest in the home she grew up in and finally escaped. Now she is trapped back there not allowed to leave and she is losing her skepticism about her mother's claim of a resident ghost. The horror comedy wildly plays off our expectations. It transforms from one kind of horror film to another like it were flipping TV channels. By the time we are done we will have gone through maybe five subgenres of horror film as well as being a comedy and the comedy does not destroy the horror. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Kylie (played by Morgana O'Reilly) is an angry savage of a woman. We first find her sledge hammering an ATM machine to break into it. Almost immediately she is in police custody. The result is that she is sentenced to eight months of home detention with an anklet that will inform her parole officer the moment she steps outside the bounds of her house and yard or if she attempts to remove the anklet. The house she has been sentenced to was the childhood home she detested. The house, old and cluttered, and garden have not been well maintained and look like the setting of a creepy Grimm's' Fairy Tale. She is about to be in her own grim fairy tale.
Kylie takes out the full force of her anger on her parents, making her presence as inconvenient as possible. The parents for some reason remain pleased to have her home. Kylie's mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), is a font of non-stop boring banality. As the electronic anklet is attached the mother asks, "Aren't you lucky, Kylie, having all that high-technology on your foot?" One of the things that Miriam tells her daughter is that the house is haunted. Kylie's response is as angry and rude as everything else she does, but soon she herself is hearing strange noises in the house. Can it be that her mother is right about the ghost?
HOUSEBOUND is written and directed by first-time feature director Gerard Johnstone. His is a fresh approach to horror and hopefully we will be seeing more of what he has to offer. At the heart of the film there is some serious drama here as her Kylie finds there is reason to respect the very things she rebelled about most. Her mother's apparently ridiculous belief in the ghost actually has some basis in fact. The security guard who is supposed to be enforcing the law proves to be a valuable man to have around and to be looking out for her. Just perhaps the world is more just to Kylie than she has expected or that she has been to it.
HOUSEBOUND is a horror-comedy-mystery-drama. It is not an easy task to have all four without each acting at the expense of the others. Here the cross interference is kept to a minimum. For me it did not all work together perfectly, but it came close.
In general this film is as creative a horror film as I have seen in quite a while. There are not a lot of New Zealanders making films for the international market but like the Singaporeans, the Kiwis may well outshine the Americans for creative films. And that is not just Peter Jackson. HOUSEBOUND is a horror comedy that does work, and it gets a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3504048/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/housebound/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper