Director: Gerard Johnstone
Screenplay: Gerard Johnstone
Starring: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Ross Harper, Cameron Rhodes
Country: New Zealand
Running Time: 107 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
New Zealand seems to be leading the way in horror comedies of late with What We Do in the Shadows and Housebound both doing well on the genre festival circuits. I enjoyed the former quite a bit even if I was slightly disappointed after the hype. Nevertheless, it whetted my appetite for more kiwi horror comedy, so I was more than happy to check out Housebound on its UK DVD release.
Housebound opens with a botched cash machine robbery by a young woman, Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly). We hear in court that it's not her first arrest and attempts at rehabilitation have failed, so the judge orders her under house arrest at her mum Miriam's (Rima Te Wiata) house. Kylie isn't at all happy with this, since she thinks her mum is an absent minded, gossiping bore. Miriam claims the house is haunted, which Kylie scoffs at until she starts to experience spooky goings on herself. Once these start to really unsettle the pair, they call upon Kylie's probation officer, Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), who happens to be a keen paranormal investigator on the side. Together they discover a mystery behind the house that must be unravelled before the dead can be at peace.
Housebound is a very different beast to What We Do in the Shadows. Where that took horror characters and presented them in a distinctly non-horror fashion for laughs, Housebound is more of a classic horror story with humour more naturally integrated within it. Because of this, the film is less obviously fresh or attention grabbing as a lot of popular recent horror films.
So, when watching the film I tended to write a lot of negative-sounding notes about over-familiarities within it. Many of the scares are quite cheap and predictable for instance and the plot is fairly generic. There are a number of twists as it goes on, but having these is expected given how the film becomes more of a thriller as the investigation into the mystery takes place. Some of the gags are a bit old too, with a couple of pratfalls even thrown in once Amos gets involved.
However, as generic as the film often felt, I couldn't help but enjoy watching it. It was almost refreshing that it didn't try to be gimmicky or out-do the competition. Having that classic mystery thread kept me involved with the story and the nicely integrated comic aspects threw regular laughs into the mix to keep me entertained. The whole film has a sort of classic feel about it because of this. It never uses any noticeable CGI either, adding to this effect.
Another thing the film uses sparingly is gore. A lot of horror comedies simply reply on going overboard on the blood and guts to provide laughs, but this lets the characters, their circumstances and the dialogue provide the humour. There are some pretty gory sequences, but these are left mainly for the film's climax and are used to accentuate moments of pain and violence rather than make you laugh.
In terms of horror, I must say I didn't find the film particularly scary though. Through the first half there are a few lame jump scares and some bog standard 'alone in the cellar' moments. Later on though, once a real threat has been established, the film does become quite tense and I found the final chase pretty gripping.
It's an odd genre film to clearly recommend then as it's not really scary, it's not notably gory and it's not side-splittingly funny. It reminded me a bit of Joe Dante's better work though, which mashes genres very effectively. It's solidly put together and assured, not really taking any risks or presenting anything original, but juggling its elements effectively enough to create a very enjoyable film experience.
Housebound is out on 20th July in the UK on DVD, released by Metrodome. I saw an online screener, so can't comment on the picture/sound quality or any special features.