Movie Review: Housebound

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After she commits the latest in a series of crimes, Kylie is put under home detention, where she has to contend with her mother and, possibly, some ghosts.

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Gerard Johnstone, 2014

Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) has hit rock bottom. When her partner in crime knocks himself out, she finishes their robbery of an ATM alone and leaves him; unfortunately for her, she gets caught immediately afterwards. The judge remands her to house arrest in her childhood home. Her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) struggles to deal with her rude, lazy daughter, just as Kylie struggles to deal with her mother’s gossip, lack of boundaries, and superstition. Kylie is immediately dismissive of her mother’s claim that a ghost haunts their country home. However, it isn’t long before strange occurrences around the house cause Kylie to become suspicious. She enlists the help of security contractor and true believer Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), whose job it is to monitor her anklet, to investigate the house’s sinister history. Meanwhile, Kylie must try to keep her mother and stepfather safe, while convincing her social worker Dennis (Cameron Rhodes) that she isn’t the one causing the mysterious incidents.

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Housebound is a little independent Kiwi horror comedy, though I have to admit, I failed to see the comedy. There were a few humorous moments, but no more than many movies I would consider to be straight horror films. Its low budget is pretty clear throughout, and it’s minimal on the really creepy scares, though the moments it uses are effective. There are a few jump scare moments, a few moments that are scary due to solid performances, and a few scenes that contain scary concepts that send chills down your spine. There’s a grey, gloomy aesthetic to this film that works nicely to convey the lead character’s claustrophobia. It also uses the New Zealand setting to good effect, in a way I haven’t really seen before; this New Zealand is muddy, cold and grim, rather than lush.

The character work is effective in the film as well. Housebound is full of characters who are (sometimes very deeply) flawed, but the film is all about giving each other second chances and forgiving our human foibles. Kylie begins the movie as an intensely unlikeable character, but she shows strength, resolve, loyalty and empathy before the film is through, and becomes a tough nut that you want to root for. Likewise, her irritating mother shows a soft side, the bumbling Amos proves resourceful and reliable, and the other characters reveal various sides to themselves. The tension during the film’s climax is made all the more real for its characters’ faults. It’s also a fun horror movie that isn’t too gory (it has a couple of moments, but it’s pretty far from your Cabin Fever/Saw stuff), and its focus on the problems facing women who don’t fit the mould is interesting as well. It’s far from a perfect film, but it’s an enjoyable one.

Housebound on IMDb

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