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  Housebound Hitting Home
Year: 2014
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Stars: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Ross Harper, Cameron Rhodes, Ryan Lampp, Nick Innes, Bruce Hopkins, Wallace Chapman, Millen Baird, David Van Horn, Nikki Si'Ulepa, Ian Mune, Kitty Riddell, Lila Sharp
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly) has hit a snag in her life since she turned to crime to get by: she keeps getting caught because she and her cohorts are so inept. Take her latest escapade when she and her friend tried to rob a cash dispensing machine, and he managed to knock himself out while smashing its console. Kylie took over, and did get some money, but as she had set off the alarm she found her getaway car was impeded by the security measures and she was caught red handed, sent to trial soon after yet again. The judge took her past criminal record into account, and ordered her under house arrest for the next eight months, under the care of her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), much to Kylie's disgust...

If that sounds like the makings of a kitchen sink drama from New Zealand, well it was indeed from that part of the world, but it wasn't a drama, it was a comedy, and a horror comedy to boot. The brainchild of writer and director Gerard Johnstone, it took one of those probation bracelets that sentenced criminals wear on their ankles as its jumping off point, for Kylie cannot leave the location of the home she grew up in for the best part of a year, and that's not the best arrangement for her when she did her level best to get away from it all through her teenage years until succeeding, then taking the path of illegality to get on thereafter. It's safe to say her twittery, well-meaning and divorced mother is not her ideal companion.

In fact, Kylie would be happier with a puff or ten of whatever drugs she could get her hands on, so she has to go cold turkey in that old house as well as suffer the boredom of nothing to do but stare at a television (the dial-up internet connection goes down permanently the nanosecond she tries to get online and her phone won't work out there in rural New Zealand). Soon returning to her parent has seen her regress to a surly teenage state, obstinate and refusing to give an inch lest it seem like anything akin to affection, and thereby indicating she might not be having a less than terrible time there. But odd things start to happen the night after she hears Miriam on a radio phone-in.

Her mother shares a story with the host of the time she saw a ghost in the cellar, apparently it looked like a man in a white sheet, a detail her daughter has nothing but contempt for as it's not as if she could have made up something more original than that. But from then on, Kylie begins to think she might be on to something, and the house's secrets are gradually exposed, including the alarming one that someone may have been stabbed to death in her childhood bedroom - before her family ever moved in, but just the occasion to kick off one of your more traditional hauntings as we had seen many times before, particularly in horror flicks specialising in the jump scare variety of chills. But where those films would start to get clich├ęd, Housebound gets interesting.

That was down to Johnstone pulling a trick on the audience, though not so much that we'd been sold a pig in a poke as he remained true to shocker conventions, he simply arranged them in a novel fashion. If you wanted to make comparisons, you could posit a cross between Tobe Hooper's backwoods horrors of the seventies mixed with Pete Walker's more suburban terrors, plus a dose of the same decade's cult television movie Bad Ronald for good measure. But you could just as easily put all that to the back of your mind and appreciate the sense of humour, taking the form of Peter Jackson's early, prosaic in the face of the bizarre gags; there must be something to what amused Kiwis that ran through their genre efforts, and it was well deployed here as Kylie starts out an unlikeable menace to society but is humanised by meeting something both worse than she is, and more interesting by something far kinder. Nicely played to the script's strengths throughout, Housebound was not quite classic, but welcome in contrast to many hackneyed contemporaries. Music by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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