Housebound (MIFF 2014)

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.

Housebound - Silver Screen Snobs

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.

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