Tuesday, October 21, 2014

[Review] Housebound

Housebound is the impressive debut from New Zealand director, Gerard Johnstone. It blends straightforward horror with comedic horror, and it does a lot of things very well in both aspects.

Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is a smart, but troubled 20-something that is ordered to go on 8 months of house arrest, due to problems with substance abuse and theft. The twist is that she has to complete the sentence under the roof of her estranged mother's home. Oh yeah, and the house has a dark history and is apparently haunted. Kylie is a skeptic, but she witnesses some creepy happenings early on during her stay. With some help from a neighbor, they set up a bunch of paranormal research equipment in order to get to the bottom of it.

The interior is steeped in shadows and the eerie music rings in at every turn. The film employs the usual ghost story conventions and utilizes effective scare tactics. It really likes to use the on-off-on-off lighting strategy as entities lurk into the frame. Even though the film provokes scares and jumps, there's also a dry and deadpan cleverness to it. It doesn't take itself overly serious either. There's a demonic teddy bear and a mysterious wildling running around the house that seems to be just as afraid as everyone else.

Events escalate to the point of being crazily over-the-top, but it isn't a turn-off in this case. Some supernatural and home intruder horror films that take themselves seriously can end up being eye-rolling or unintentionally hilarious at points, but Housebound dwells in a setting and tone that makes room for both deliberate seriousness and deliberate humor, and it strikes the perfect balance. When a battery-operated toy suddenly breaks the tension of a quiet scene by yelping, "Well hello there, you can record a message by pressing the green button on my fanny pack!" it's hilarious.

The duration probably could've been shaved down about 15-20 minutes, but it isn't anything painful. And while this film isn't quite as entertaining and inventive as other recent horror comedies of the type (like Cabin in the Woods or You're Next), it's still worth a watch.

In a year where quality horror films have mostly been lacking so far, Housebound is a great VOD choice to cue up in a dark room from the comfort (or discomfort) of your own home.


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