Movie Review: Housebound (2014)

Housebound
2014
Starring: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Ross Harper, Ryan Lampp
Writer/Director: Gerard Johnstone
Produced by: Semi-Professional
Distributor: XLrator Media (2014) (USA) (Theatrical)
(info courtesy of imdb)

I am not a huge fan of horror-comedy (or comedy horror, depending on ratio). I like my horror scary, with minimal sex and the screaming dialed down to about a 4. I know this puts me in the minority because I put a silly little thing like story about body count and the consistency of scattered brain matter, but it’s what makes me a special snowflake.

I found Housebound through a Netflix recommendation, right there in the big ol’ banner when I pulled up the app on my phone, so if the producers and marketing people are reading, that was money very well spent.

Housebound tells the story of miscreant, Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly), put under house arrest because she’s a screw up. As she can’t seem to stay out of trouble and her criminal antics apparently don’t warrant jail time, she’s sentenced to several months of home detention under the care and watchful eye of Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), her mother. As Kylie is forced to endure the home she left years ago and her mother’s insistence the place is haunted initially causes tension, but before too long, Kylie – acting as the skeptical audience – begins to experience the house as she uncovers its past as entwined with hers. Add in a helpful parole-type officer, Amos (Glen Paul Raru) (I know next to nothing about the criminal justice system in New Zealand), who’s also an amateur paranormal investigator, and you have the makings of a ghost hunt that feels sincere and authentic in the sense that no one knows what they’re doing. More stuff happens, but as I went into this movie absolutely cold, you should just let this great story unfold on its own.

There are lots of what seem like throwaway lines in this film and that’s really what makes it work. Casual conversation doesn’t feel forced, information is meted out judiciously and in its own time, and nothing feels forced or dumped. The overall originality and pacing from twist to turn is invigorating. There’s also scene with a Teddy Ruxpin-like bear that was the creepiest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

I keep coming back to Kylie’s character, because had it been played any other way, this movie would not have worked as well, and that’s a grand credit to Morgana O’Reilly. Kylie isn’t the most likeable of protagonists – she’s inconsiderate, a slob, and downright mean – but never over the top. She’s human – someone in a lousy situation getting worse by degrees. There’s no screaming or throwing things, just a silent seething contempt for just about everything. Her performance makes this movie so much less like the usual isolated/haunted house/screaming nonsense and infinitely more fun.

I spent the first half of Housebound actively disliking Kylie and waited with glee to see Bad Things Happen. Unlike a lot of female-lead driven movies, she grows as a character. There was a scene where her stepfather, played by Ross Harper, is trying to include her in a simple repair activity clearly wanting to connect on some level with this angry creature he has to live with. She blows him off and you find yourself saying to the camera – “Kylie, don’t be a sh*t” – and you think she hears you because she turns around and participates. She becomes engaged, and this engages the audience and suddenly you like her, just a little. She never becomes the kind of person you’d leave your wallet with, and that’s completely fair, but you stop hating her and you’re secretly excited this movie won’t become a typical woman in peril horror movie.

(I can’t talk about the other awesome actors in this because I don’t want to spoil your fun, but generous hat tip to Ryan Lampp!)

If you care about this sort of thing, it get a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

It’s streaming on Netflix right now.

 

 

Wow Factor – I love being surprised by hidden gems.
Wander Lust – None – no bathroom, no soda refills, I didn’t even knit while I watched.
Rewind – To talk about them would spoil them, but that 30-second rewind on Netflix came in handy more than once
Recommend – Yes, to lovers of well-written, well-paced movies fun scares that pull no punches
Movie Math – 100 Feet + (Spoiler) = Housebound
Personal Movie rating (scale of 1-5 with one being Abysmal and 5 being “Start A religion”) – 4.5

Did you see Housebound? How does my movie math hold up? Is there a better equation? Tell me in the comments.