Gerard Johnstone’s debut feature kicks off with an intriguingly original premise. After a botched robbery, Kylie Bucknell is sentenced to house arrest (complete with electronic ankle bracelet) with her ill-equipped Mother as warden. It’s a haunted house tale wherein the protagonist cannot legally leave.
It’s clear from the opening scene that this is not going to be a gritty, serious horror flick. The suburban comedy is so deft in fact, that it actually renders the scares a bit toothless at times. But despite the tonal balancing act at play, Housebound remains consistently funny, with the horror tropes adding shades to the unusual setting.
Once again horror proves to be a reliable genre that can infuse more character and agency into its women in the first 15 minutes than a mainstream film can manage in its entire run-time. Morgana O’Reilly carries much of the films jarring turns with a withering stare and sharp put down, keeping things from getting too melodramatic. The central relationship with her mother (Rima Te Wiata) grounds the film in a place of authenticity. The house is almost a character in itself. Seemingly about to collapse under the weight of its tacky heirlooms and knick knacks, the setting feels real and lived-in.
The horror elements are lovingly celebrated with a healthy dose of practical effects, but the real strength is the comedy. This is after all, a film where a power-tool wielding maniac still remembers the importance of person protective equipment.
A delightfully bloody, fresh take on the Haunted House story.