31 Days of Fear: Housebound


Grabbed By The Ghoulies

by Brody Rossiter

Horror and comedy have a somewhat toxic relationship with one another. It’s very rare that a scary movie can retain its ability to provoke fear when it’s also desperately attempting, and repeatedly failing, to make you laugh. Unfortunately, what this combination of genre traits often boils down to is the much maligned “spoof” or parody movie. I could intricately break down such cheap and tasteless cash grabs, drawing attention to their countless artistic misgivings, but ultimately, I’d rather just say they’re overwhelmingly shit.

Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound looks to rectify this sorrowful trend of pitiful parody with a contemporary farce that is both genuinely funny and frightful. When young offender Kylie botches a cash machine robbery she is remanded back to the custody of her estranged mother and dim-witted stepdad. After overhearing her mother’s concerns regarding the ghostly activity that has blighted the property, Kylie laughs off the claims. However, she soon begins to experience the paranormal activity herself.

Trapped inside the house with her gossiping mother and the pesky spirit, Kylie begins to uncover her childhood home’s torrid past with the aid of her ghost hunting probation officer. Forced to face the restless entity, a life of Coronation Street episodes and homemade meatloaf is quickly overtaken by gory episodes and midnight investigations of the vast, cursed property.

The film’s subversion of haunted house horror, which ironically arrives in the form of comical mundanity – much of which is gifted to viewers by Kylie’s mother, Miriam (Rima Ti Wiata) – is refreshing and repeatedly hilarious. The elaborate and bombastic scoring constantly amps up the picture’s humour and horror, building tension before releasing it with a tongue-in-cheek flourish. You’re always on your toes with Housebound, unsure of what sensation will be thrust upon you next and where the danger truly lies.

New Zealand is very rarely part of the conversation when it comes to cinema, unless hobbits and magical rings are involved of course. However, Johnstone’s writing and direction combined with numerous engaging performances – none more so than Morgana O’Reilly’s sneering turn as Kylie – and an omnipresent aura of ingenuity may well help the country change the conversation. A perfect Friday night fright filled with suspense, attitude and comic relief, Housebound will undoubtedly prove a distinct highlight of any horror movie marathon.

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