Without actually meaning to, it appears as if I’m having a mini New Zealand horror film festival. At this rate, I’m going to really start becoming a serious advocate for the New Zealand horror scene. Anyway, Housebound is another one of those movies that’s been on my watch list for a while but I never got around to watching it. A few days ago, however, my sister texted me specifically to find out if I had seen it yet and that it was definitely going to be something I would enjoy. As is often the case, she was quite right about this one. Just a heads up, it’s going to be really hard to talk about this without giving some key plot points away so please, watch this one first since there are going to be some spoilers.
The story revolves around Kylie, a troubled girl that gets arrested after a heist goes hilariously wrong. She is court ordered to be under house arrest at her childhood home with her mother, Miriam. Soon after, some strange occurrences lead Kylie to believe that the house may actually be haunted by the ghost of a girl that was killed there many years before. She enlists the help of Amos, the security technician that also happens to live in the neighborhood and is an amateur paranormal enthusiast. As Kylie begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of the young girl, she is no longer certain of who she can trust or if there is even a haunting happening at all.
So the thing I’m beginning to realize about New Zealand films, based on this and stuff like What We Do in the Shadows, Black Sheep, and yesterday’s Deathgasm, is that comedy is apparently inextricably linked with horror. Which isn’t to say that the movies don’t present things seriously or are any less capable of providing some scares. It’s just that the absurdity of the standard tropes in a horror film aren’t lost on the creators or the characters. Indeed, throughout this movie we constantly get humor sprinkled in that feels natural to the situation rather than the kind of slapstick or reference-as-comedy stuff we get in things like the Scary Movie series.
The film also does an excellent job of providing twists that don’t feel like they were forced or that they are included just to throw the audience. I especially appreciate the film throwing in the red herring of Dissociative Identity Disorder. aka multiple personalities, since that is the lazy man’s super clever twist in so many horror films. It turns out the victim was the killer all along? How fresh and original! Instead the movie seamlessly goes from haunted house movie, to The People Under the Stairs, to a slasher film without really missing a beat. The relationships and reactions of the characters are all well done and much of both the horror and the comedy comes from the fact that all of this is coming from the mother and daughter going through it together.
If you’ve gotten this far, I would hope you headed my earlier advice and already watched the movie. If you haven’t, well, I still recommend you go do so. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 and now I want to go find more Kiwi horror.
Favorite thing in the movie: The speed with which the movie establishes the relationships between people. Especially Kylie and her mother and Kylie and Amos.
Least favorite thing: The couple of jump scare music stings for mundane stuff like the mother saying hello. It’s not overused enough to make me dock points but it was still enough to notice.