New To Blu: Housebound

Housebound hit blu-ray a few weeks ago. Here's Michelle's review.

"Jesus. Look at the size of those cans."
For whatever reason, ghost stories are the new big thing in horror films. Most of them follow a similar formula and end up feeling generic as a result. Housebound takes a different approach with a quirky and humorous take on the genre. It hails from New Zealand, which is home to other excellent horror-comedies such as Black Sheep and Dead Alive and it keeps with the tradition of gore and ‘effed up humor. This is Gerard Johnstone’s directorial debut, but it isn’t readily apparent from how polished and well-written the film is, and it impressed audiences at the South by Southwest film festival and garnered awards at several other festivals as well.

The story concerns Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly), a bumbling petty thief who gets arrested after a failed robbery attempt. She gets put on house arrest for eight months and is forced to live at home with her family. Her annoyance with her doting yet smothering mother is overshadowed by the strange unexplained happenings going on in the basement, and it’s up to her to figure out what the hell is going on. While this sounds overtly cliché, they spice it up with some absurdist humor and silly situations. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it does set it apart from all the other million haunting flicks that are out right now.

Everything has a clean professional look and it looks higher budget than it really is. The cinematography is decent with some interesting shots thrown in here and there. There is a reliance on jump scares, which can be annoying, but almost all of them are played for laughs. Even though everything is somewhat predictable, the clever writing and absurdity keep it from being intolerable. New Zealand has a specific style of comedy with an emphasis on non sequiturs, dry jokes, and potty humor. This is not to say that the film doesn’t have legitimately frightening moments—it ramps up the horror when needed.

"I just love the taste of blood."
Practical effects always score brownie points with horror enthusiasts and Housebound does a great job with the gore and even has some animatronic effects! It’s more of a thrill ride than a straight up horror film and it ends up having a much lighter feeling, for better or worse. Horror-comedy is a hard genre to do well, but the writing really hold ups and stays consistent throughout. The film is a little too long though and it could do with tighter editing. Interestingly enough, the characters actually have backstories you care about and the rare times it does get serious are compelling and poignant. The best horror films make you care what happens to the characters and treats them better than disposable murder mannequins.

Overall, Housebound is a refreshing movie in a sea of moldy and boring haunting films. Equal parts comical and terrifying, it walks the line between comedy and horror perfectly. It’s surprising that so many excellent films are coming from first time directors and hopefully it’s a trend that continues.

-Michelle Kisner