"Aren't you lucky Kylie to have all that fancy technology on your foot." - Miriam Bucknell
After an attempted ATM robbery goes disastrously wrong, due to the ineptitude of Kylie's partner in crime, Kylie Rene Bucknell finds herself sentence to eight months home detention. Problem being home is her mom's place out in rural New Zealand, and Mom is a bit of an eccentric character, to put it nicely. Besides being mildly racist, Miriam is hopelessly out of date, and believes her house is haunted. A sullen Kylie soon learns, via talk back radio, that Miriam believes she was visited by something supernatural. Naturally Kylie is sceptical but when things start happening, noises in the night etc, she begins to wonder if Miriam isn't as batty as she seems.
Luckily Amos, an officer from Titan security assigned to Kylie's case, also happens to be a paranormal investigator. Kylie and Amos are soon trying to decipher if the haunting is real and discover Miriam's house has a dark pass involving murder and insanity. But is everything as it seems, nothing is going to be simple in this investigation.
During 2014 a brace of Kiwi dark genre movies hit screens scoring large in New Zealand, gaining a lot of notice in Oz, and more recently getting favourable reviews in North America. To a certain extent it was payback for all the hard yards down over the last thirty so years by the local Horror industry, proving you don't necessarily have to have the name "Peter Jackson" plastered all over your credits in order to evoke some coverage. While Housebound, the second of the movies for the year from across the ditch, kept the Aotearoa faithful happy with life it didn't achieve the sort of box office here in Australia one might have wished for. Which is unfortunate as Gerard Johnstone's dark and subversive comedy was definitely in my top ten for the year and deserved a lot more recognition from the great unwashed than it got. In short Johnstone showed a full understanding of the haunted house tale, but then took it in a completely new direction. Housebound is absolutely brilliant, but never makes the mistake of taking itself terribly serious, let's see if there's a lease sign in one of the windows of this bad boy.
First up Housebound works like a one armed painter as a haunted house flick. It has some seriously good chills going down, plays on the expected tropes, and then delivers on the mystery all good movies of this sort should focus on. We learn that Miriam's house has a dark past and that maybe a victim who died in the house is trying to contact Kylie. The mystery unravels in an entirely logical fashion and points the finger of suspicion at a next door neighbour who could charitably be called eccentric. No that's not a spoiler, Housebound has movie twists and turns than a Chubby Checker concert. So if after a haunted house movie that delivers some chill fingers down your spine then you are in the right place, Director Johnstone nails the atmosphere and the tension.
The comedy is perhaps a tad kiwi centric, and to be honest I wasn't rolling around the floor laughing my arse off at any stage. I did get a smile on my dial from some of the dialogue, kiwi as Bro, and some of Kylie's shocks at returning to her old home. For example Kylie's look is priceless as she confronts the fact that Miriam is still on dial up when it comes to internet connection. If you have ever been to NZ then you will probably recognise some of the stereotypical characters, yes people like this lot do roam around the countryside, for the most part being treated as perfectly normal. I actually really dug the character of Miriam as she reminded me of a couple of my family members! Anywise if after hard guffaws then you are probably going to need to check out another movie, though I would still tend to add this one to the viewing list.
Johnstone would appear to know his dark genre as I got a whole bunch of nods to other movies, including Aliens surprisingly, Peter Jackson's Braindead, and one of the later Halloween movies, think four or five, you'll know the scene when you come across it. There was equally an ability on the Director's part to take the haunted house tropes and shake the buggery out of them, for example Kylie looking in a mirror, then looking away, and then looking back, come on who didn't expect someone to pop up in the mirror when she wasn't looking. About the only trope Johnstone didn't cover was the spring loaded cat rocketing out of a cupboard, guess the RSPCA are down on that over the ditch.
What will have horror fans impressed is the Director's ability to make even the most common place object appear menacing and somehow sinister. We're talking the house itself, Johnstone gets that Amityville mojo happening, a doll, and numerous other props. Two thumbs up to a Director that has tension dripping through use of static shoots and common place items. There's a sort of washed atmosphere to the movie that simply screams out haunting, and not of the beneficial kind, Johnstone has things dimmed down and brooding.
For those after some perv action you are out of luck, Johnstone is keeping the movie as chaste as your elderly maiden aunt. Gorehounds will however be happy I think, there's exploding heads, knife action, and one dude getting knocked senseless by an errant sledgehammer. The violence however does get played for laughs for the most part rather than going gorenography on us.
An excellent cast provided Johnstone with just the right amount of realism to keep things rocking along. Morgana O'Reilly (Kylie) actually shows some character development and nails the requirements to the barn door. Was loving her sullen uncooperative mode at the start of the movie. Also nailing it were Rima Te Wiata (Miriam) and the rest of the cast who added some well needed professionalism to the whole fandango.
Sorry I didn't take note of the score but was impressed with Space Waltz's Angel playing over the ending credits. Brave movie using a 1970s Kiwi band few will remember, but the song fits the movie so cool.
Guess we are committed to reviewing everything Downunder in the horror genre, so the added bonus for me was running across a rocking good haunted house story in Housebound. With this movie Gerard Johnstone proves he is a director/writer to take note of, can't wait to see what he throws our way next. Housebound comes highly recommended folks; this is one wild colonial flick you are not going to want to miss. I'm actually going to stop rabbiting on about this well above average flick now and give it another viewing; did I mention Eugene in the review?