Director – Gerard Johnstone
Cast – Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Ross Harper, Cameron Rhodes, Ryan Lampp, Mick Innes, Bruce Hopkins
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
For the past few months I have been coming across nonstop praise for Housebound, a New Zealand horror/comedy, so I was admittedly pretty stoked when I finally rented the film on Amazon. It was a cold early afternoon and I figured a supernatural tale with a few good laughs would be my chicken soup for the soul, but I was wrong. Housebound is OK, but that is as good as it gets for me. Maybe I need to be from New Zealand to appreciate the film (although I did love Dead Alive), but this effort is far from the incredible horror/comedy genre fans are claiming it to be.
After her most recent run-in with the law, Kylie Bucknell is given a punishment worse than prison time – house arrest. Forced to live with her mother Miriam – a superstitious woman who claims to have had an encounter with a ghost in the home – Kylie brushes her off as a blabbermouth with nothing better to do than tell tall tales. However, when things begin to go bump in the night (AKA grab her)…she realizes her punishment just became even more severe.
By now, if you’ve been following me, you know that I love nowhere-to-run scenarios. Being forced to remain in a home against your will counts as such a scenario (for the most part), and I enjoyed that element of this story. Kylie is portrayed as the cliché pain in the ass who constantly scowls at everyone and is an utter waste of life. Of course, this is a comedy so the clichés are naturally more aggressive than if this were a serious effort. The first horror hits at the 23 minute mark, but don’t expect anything more than a cheap jump scare. We continue to see the horror show up here and there, but I was honestly disappointed at how tame and dull it was. The horror never manifested into an otherworldly presence and instead teased at a supernatural element that never surfaced. Instead, the horror derives from the actions of humans, which…in a ghost story…it just boring. At least this time it was. Also, much to my surprise, the film was not very funny either. There were a few moments where I laughed at a subtle joke, but in the end I felt the humor was always on that fine line between funny and serious, like a significant other who can’t be without you but can’t be with you either. For what it is worth, though, I did enjoy some of the colorful characters, with Miriam stealing the show. Her good-intentions are overwritten with comedic outcomes, whereas Kylie is that unlikable bitch who eventually opens up to the seriousness of her situation…while remaining an unlikable bitch.
First-time filmmaker Gerard Johnstone both writes and directs this effort, and I cannot say that his direction is much better than his writing. He sets up good atmosphere early on, but the home used is far from spooky. Typically, haunted homes will exhibit dark corners covered in shadows, creaky floors, etc., but that is not the case here. You do hear a few thuds and bumps, but they are hardly scary and sound more like me banging my head after watching a film from The Asylum. He DOES achieve good performances from some of his actors, with Rima Te Wiata making a name for herself as Miriam. Morgana O’Reilly did her job, which was obviously to be mediocre, but I can see her doing well with efforts that better suit her abilities. Earlier I mentioned that horror being tame /dull, and sadly so is the execution of the horror. There is a scene where an inanimate object exhibits some supernatural activity, and while a scene like that would normally scare me it proved to be a big disappointment. How someone can screw up such a scene is beyond me, but the execution of this scene and those related to it was downright poor. The rest of the horror is basic at best, with cheap scares and uneventful outcomes thanks to a lack of frontal cinematography. Housebound is in fact well-shot, and that may be why I managed to sit through the entire film without fidgeting, but when everything else is mediocre there is only so much good film quality can do for you.
Overall, Housebound is a letdown for me. I did not find it scary, which may be considered typical for a horror comedy, but I also did not find it funny either. Humor is subjective, but I have seen enough horror comedies to appreciate the sub-genre and know what makes it good/bad. From what I understand, most of those who loved the comedy in this effort hate horror comedies in general, so if you are that person then maybe this is for you. If not, then don’t believe the hype. If anything, watch this with an open mind and tell me if you agree or if I am just out of touch here.