Housebound (15) | Home Ents Review


Dir. Gerard Johnstone, New Zealand, 2014, 107 mins

Cast: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru

One of the best comedies of the year is also a rather effective Kiwi-inflected gothic horror piece, boasting masterclass performances in deadpan humour and writing that is pitch perfect at all times.

Kylie (O’Reilly) thinks she’s hardcore: she gets her kicks out of ram-raiding cash machines. Caught and in court after one such (bungled) escapade, she is given a home detention order, complete with electronic foot tag. The home in question is her mother’s, Miriam (Te Wiata). Mum and daughter haven’t been close for ages and Kylie is right royally pissed off to have to be there, especially when she’s sharing the house with Miriam’s gormless boyfriend Graeme.

But the house has secrets and they start to reveal themselves through a series of creaking doors and bumps in the night. Before long, the bumps and creaks have escalated into something much more frightening; something that threatens the lives of Kylie and Miriam and Graeme, as well as those of Kylie’s parole officer, her psychiatrist, the security technician who looks after her foot tag, and the next door neighbour.

Writer-director Gerard Johnstone has created a stonkingly good NZ comedy horror, that remains likeable and funny at all times and is even a teensy bit scary. The tone is pretty unique: it is part Braindead meets The People Under the Stairs; part a more traditional haunted house ghost story. The deadpan humour bleeds into the straight ghost story elements without missing a beat, in a way that I can think of no precedence for.

The deadpan humour is especially well delivered by Te Wiata and Waru (she is a veteran of Antipodean films and tv). O’Reilly is grand too, it’s just that her character is there to internationalise the appeal of the film – whereas there’s something nicely insular, louche and backwoods NZ about the characters of Miriam and Amos, the security technician.

There are horror references aplenty but they never get in the way of the flow of the drama – in fact this could easily be that rare thing: a genuine ‘crossover’ film, a horror comedy that works both for horror fans and for lovers of comedy.

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Housebound is out on DVD on 20 July

Colin Dibben

Author: Colin Dibben

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