“Are you familiar with the term dissociative identity disorder?”
After having watched the hilarious New Zealand mockumentry, What We Do in the Shadows, I decided to follow it up with another Kiwi film written and directed by first time director Gerard Johnstone. Housebound is yet another brilliantly crafted film that manages to blend the horror and comedy genres together in such a way that the film excels at both things. Usually when you have a film like this, it is either more concerned in delivering on the comedy or on the horror, but very few times does it actually manage to do so on both ends. Housebound is a parody of horror films while at the same time maintaining a creepy an unsettling atmosphere. The story takes several unexpected twists and turns and everything is explained extremely well. At first you think it’s going to be a parody of haunted houses or supernatural horror movies, then it becomes a suspenseful mystery, and it continues to deliver twists up to the very end of the film. The film doesn’t suffer from dissociative identity disorder because it knows exactly where its taking its audience and it pokes fun at all the horror cliches we’ve seen over the past couple of decades in a very inventive way. You have the jump scares, the supernatural elements, the creepy music, the crime solving mystery elements, and even domestic drama between a mother and a daughter all mixed together with a great amount of humor.
The first forty minutes of the film did feel a bit tedious and I didn’t understand where the story was going. It was hard to like the main character of this film, Kylie, played by Morgana O’Reilly because she was completely into herself and treated her mother horrendously. After a robbery goes wrong she is caught by the police and forced by the court to home detention for eight months. She doesn’t get along with her mother Myriam (Rima Te Wiata) who is always gossiping about the small town nor her silent stepfather. Forced into this situation she is someone hard to sympathize with. Her home welcoming doesn’t get any brighter when she begins to hear and see things, thus fearing the house is haunted. Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) is a security guard from the neighborhood who happens to be a ghost hunter aficionado so when he hears about what is going on in the house he becomes interested in helping them out. Amos is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film and there is a scene near the forty minute mark where he slaps Kylie in the face for being so self centered. After that scene, Kylie’s attitude changes and her character becomes much more sympathetic. We begin rooting for her and as each new twist unfolds before our eyes the plot becomes richer and richer. The final third act is extremely fun and it blends the horror and comedy elements perfectly. The opening act which I didn’t enjoy at all suddenly became an interesting buildup when I thought about it in retrospect and I ended up enjoying Housebound more than I was expecting to.
Perhaps some audiences might feel the same way towards the opening of this film, but trust me if you stick with it you will be rewarded because the story becomes much more gripping and funnier (and the main character does become more likable). It is a very inventive and unique film and it delivers on both ends so if you are a fan of any of these genres you won’t want to miss this. It is also a film that benefits from the audiences knowledge of horror genre conventions and it enjoys playing with them and pulling the rug under their feet. Johnstone has managed to deliver a solid feature debut and he seems to have a lot of knowledge about movies. I will be looking forward to what he comes up with next because this was a very fun and entertaining movie. There are many memorable scenes and the unfamiliar actors all deliver solid performances. It is rare to find a film like this that becomes so unpredictable despite all the genre conventions and you honestly don’t know what direction it’s going to take next.