Directed by Gerard Johnstone.
2014. Not Rated, 106 minutes.
Rima Te Wiata
Things start off with a robbery. It's about the most pathetic attempt at thievery ever committed to film, but a robbery, nonetheless. It begins with the accomplice of our protagonist knocking himself out with a sledgehammer. And that's not the dumbest thing that happens. Anyhoo, the upshot of all this is that Kylie (O'Reilly) is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to eight months of house arrest at the home of her estranged mother Miriam (Te Wiata). As if this weren't bad enough, Mom reminds her that the house is haunted. Sure enough, things start going bump in the night.
Early on, I was at a bit of a loss with this film. The tone felt wobbly to the point where I didn't know how to take it. The balance it was striking between horror and humor was shaky, at best. As a result, I was lost somewhere in the middle for too long a chunk of time. Part of the issue is that the horror stuff was largely generic. The other part is me. I just had no clue what I was getting into when I put it on. However, the snarkiness of the dialogue keeps piling up and the frequency of the jokes take over. At this point, I had to abandon any hope of getting a true blue fright flick and embrace Housebound for what it is. It's a dark comedy using the premise of a horror flick. The sooner this comes into focus for you, the better you will enjoy Housebound.
There are two things that help us "get it." First is the wonderful chemistry between Morgana O'Reilly as Kylie and Rima Te Wiata as her mom. Second is a few well done gags. Kylie is a thoroughly unlikable protagonist. This is a bit of a problem, but O'Reilly completely sells it. Te Wiata is even better as Miriam. She is just perfect as the perturbed mother with sarcasm dripping from her pores and just waiting to pounce on every opportunity to point out that she was right about something. Their back and forths feel like a real mother and daughter when they are definitely not on the same page. As for the gags, my favorite is the one that got me fully on board with the idea of this being a comedy. Every haunted house movie worth its ghosts has a paranormal expert come check the place out. This one is no different. The way this person is introduced in this film comes out of nowhere and is brilliant.
Things wrap up after a couple of nicely done twists and a fun/funny finale and epilogue. This makes sense since I enjoyed the second half of Housebound far more than the first. During those earlier parts, I was just trying to figure out what I was watching. Now that I have, I feel I should give it another watch. That's a fair way to get the most of out of a viewing, right? Maybe. But I don't feel like taking all the blame. The film itself should share in that. This is not a seamless melding of horror and humor like Scream, or more recently You're Next. In this case, the two are slammed together, the impact of which leaves both the movie and the audience disoriented for a while before everyone finds their balance.