Young degenerate, Kylie Bucknell, is placed under house arrest when an attempted robbery at an ATM machine goes hysterically wrong. Back under the watchful eye of her benevolent yet slightly talkative mother in the home she grew up in (and desperately wanted to leave), Kylie begins to hear things that are unexplainable, see things that shouldn’t be there, and she comes to the conclusion that her old family home is haunted, particularly after she learns that her home was once a halfway house, and the site of a particularly gruesome murder.
With the help of her security contractor, Amos, who is something of a supernatural ghost-hunter, they begin to investigate the paranormal occurrences that are keeping Kylie up at night. But the deeper they dig, the more horrifying the truth seems to become.
Horror-comedies are all the range these days. Every time a half way decent horror movie is released, you can bet your bottom dollar that a spoof of it is right around the corner, and more often than not, these films do more damage to the horror franchise than good. Yes, they make horrors a little-less frightening to watch, and they deliver perhaps one, maybe two genuinely funny gimmicks that make the axe murderer or the ghost in the attic a little more watchable, but isn’t that just defeating the point of a horror? When I was younger, I was so afraid of horror films that I simply refused to watch them (I still haven’t permitted myself to watch Ghost Ship to this day). Hell, it was only after I’d seen Scary Movie did I even have the guts to watch Scream! It wasn’t until I reached my mid-teens did I really begin to appreciate the art of making a classic horror film, which involved keeping you on the very edge of your seat, have your heart racing when an innocent victim met their deaths at the hands of a killer. It can be argued that every horror film has at least one element of comedy in them, otherwise the film would almost be unbearable to watch. But directors, over the years, have taken the one element of comedy, and to be honest, have almost destroyed the horror genre. It has desensitised the modern audiences to horror films, which is why, if you honestly think about it, you can’t remember the last time you were truly scared by a film.
That being said, there are a few directors that actually get it right with a horror-comedy, and thankfully, Gerard Johnstone seems to be one of them who has found a the middle ground between comedy and horror. Housebound tells the age-old story of a house being haunted by the ghost of someone who was victim to a brutal killing, and the living entities in the house diving into the past to try and exercise the spirit from their home. Tale as old as time, right? But Johnstone gives the story a very modern twist, and actually manages to make the audience laugh at the goings-on and one-liners that the characters come out with. Kylie is a very likable, yet unlikable protagonist, who, despite having many run-ins with the law, and clearly desperate to leave her mother’s house, you can’t help but warm to. Maybe it’s because a lot of us can identify with this girl, or maybe her ‘damsel-in-distress’ persona is nowhere to be found. You warm to Kylie instantly and you feel your heart racing when it comes to close-encounters with the spirit world, and when things go bump in the night. She has you rooting for her until the very end of the story.
Her mother, Miriam provides the clear comic-relief that is needed in every horror film, but it’s never over the top stunts that has you cringing when she performs them. Quite simply, she is a mother who obviously cares for her daughter, but also wants to express her opinions on…well, just about any topic you can think of. Her chatty, charismatic personality is both refreshingly hilarious as well as comforting, and as a viewer, she becomes your favourite character throughout the film. I quite like her because she’s not unbelievable. Everyone knows at least one person in their lives that could talk for England, and who rarely filters what they are saying in an attempt to keep things from being dull.
While I do think this is a wonderfully play on the story everyone has heard, I have to admit, sometimes it does take quite a while for the story to be driven forward, and you find yourself wishing something would jump out at the characters to give you the adrenaline rush you crave. I’ve never understood why horrors build up as a clam before the storm, and this film is no exception to this rule. There were also elements throughout the film you can’t help but think ‘Really? You really came to the correct conclusion based on one barely-significant detail?’ I guess if they hadn’t, the story would have been unnecessarily longer, but there was enough time wasted watching Kylie become restless and bored being under house arrest that you think the director could have been using the screen time a little more wisely.
I really did enjoy this film, and it’s no surprise that it scored so highly on Rotten Tomatoes. Though I would have liked it to have been a little more frightening, there is no denying there are plenty of tense moments that had me glued to the screen, internally screaming for the Kylie to run, and be shocked when the truth finally comes out. A very rare find in the horror-comedy genre, I would recommend you watch this film, and directors, take note how to make a horror-comedy properly, from a director who has clearly mastered this talent.
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Starring: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Ross Harper
Running Time: 107 minutes
DVD Release Date: 20th July 2015