In her monthly column, guff-film buff Diane Spencer sorts the cinematic wheat from the chaff, then throws all the wheat away. This month she’s considering the merits of being Housebound.
My sister pays for my Netflix because it’s her way of giving to charity, and I let her because I adore films. Consequently the idea of being kept in your house for eight months is not so bad for me – I’m an introvert, I love sewing, am ginger so don’t do well in sunlight and I’m a ‘walking upstairs IS exercise’ fan.
But if I was kept within my mother’s house on house arrest and she had a paranoid delusion that the house was haunted, even my inner hermit would have trouble and probably kick off if we ran out of After Eights.
Housebound (2014), written and directed by Gerard Johnstone, is a really nice, creepy film about Kylie Bucknell (played by Morgana O’Reilly), a troubled young woman who ran away from home and now has to return on house arrest, complete with ankle bracelet.
Her mother, Miriam Bucknell (Rima Te Wiata), is convinced the house is haunted but then events start to imply that her creepy fantasy may be correct. What unfolds is a genuinely enjoyable, clever film which deservedly scooped nominations and awards, notably both Best Horror Film and Best Comedy at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014.
The family lives on a main road in the middle of nowhere, which of course means they have a scary hillbilly neighbour who likes to skin animals and not wash anything ever. Having briefly lived in New Zealand I can confirm that once you’re out of Auckland they have a name for you – you’re a Jafa (just another fucking Aucklander) – and you can, at times, feel like you’ve wondered onto the set of Wrong Turn, Deliverance, Evil Dead… anything with a cabin and rusty automobiles in place of topiary.
After a slow start, Housebound moves at a reasonably good pace once things settle in. Events turn weird, but the refreshing thing about this film is that it flips many predictable plot points/devices on their heads. For example, Amos (played by Glen-Paul Waru) the security guard responsible for monitoring Kylie’s house arrest, totally accepts her mother’s assertion that the house has ghosts on the first mentioning of it; in fact he has a sideline in paranormal investigations.
The grey colour scheme just adds to the experience and the way the film subverts horror tropes, such as the appearance of the ‘Hello Moto’ ringtone, is a joy. Though the humour doesn’t really pick up until the film settles into its genre, the conclusion is unexpected, exciting and eventually heartwarming.
The film has jumping moments, creeping suspense and one of the best characters I’ve seen in a horror film in a long time – the aforementioned mother, Miriam. Rima Te Wiata is brilliant, and she rightly won an award for Best Supporting Actress at the 2014 Fright Meter awards. Her character is chatty, flighty, concerned but daft, she wants what’s best, she watches Coronation Street and when she swears, you know you’re in trouble.
The main character Kylie is a strong woman – OK, she’s initially a bad kid, but when she’s asked, “What are you gonna do against a hostile spirit? You just gonna crack jokes?” she replies, “No, I am going to smash it in the face.” I wish they had employed that tactic in The Ring.
New Zealanders have developed a really strong niche in comedy horror – Black Sheep (2006), written and directed by Jonathan King, and the much more recent What We Do in the Shadows (2014), written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Housebound shows how fun the genre can be.
Would I recommend it: YES.
Would I watch it again? Yes, and invite my friends round.1967 Views
Diane Spencer is a standup comedian and writer. Her favourite genres include comedy, horror and sci-fi. Loves halloumi.