Movie Review: “Housebound”- A Hidden Surprise

Written by Angela May 08, 2015


With Aussie Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook” and Kiwi Jemaine Clement’s “What We Do in the Shadows” currently earning international recognition, it’s a wonder that Gerard Johnstons’s “Housebound” has yet to garner the same level of acclaim this side of the equator. Premiering at South by Southwest film fest in 2014, this New Zealand gem deserves to be talked about far more than its limited release has warranted.

Twenty-four year old Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is spiraling down the wrong path, but her rebellious lifestyle finally catches up with her when she’s caught red-handed in an ill-conceived attempt to rob an ATM. Since incarceration has done little in the past to mend her criminal ways, Kylie is sentenced instead to eight months of house arrest in her countryside childhood home. At first the scariest part of the situation appears to be living in close quarters with her estranged mother (Rima Te Wiata). But soon, it becomes apparent that she and her family may not be alone. Creepy-looking toys are making their way into Kylie’s bedroom while she sleeps, doors are opening on their own, thuds are coming from the attic and shadows are moving in the darkness. Delighted to have something to do besides listen to her mother’s yammering, the toughened and cynical Kylie investigates the strange phenomenon in the hopes of uncovering the clues to a ghostly past. As it turns out, the secrets dwelling within the walls of her house are a bit more complicated than what she originally anticipated.


As has been exhibited in the wry writing of Jemaine Clement, or even further back in time to Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive,” the patented humour of New Zealand is comprised of equal parts dryness, morbidity, and tongue-in-cheek wit. True to form, Gladstone’s script is beyond hilarious as it pits the everyday characters of New Zealand’s quiet rural landscape against dark paranormal forces. Yet another facet of the genre can be seen in the way the film manages to evenly teeter from silly, scary fun to gravely serious and dramatic. If the theme of family relationships is a regular convention of New Zealand horror, then “Housebound” fully encompasses this rule. Besides the scares, besides the humour, and besides the fast-paced action, the heart of the film beats in Kylie and her mother’s strained relationship.


It’s not so often that a horror movie comes around celebrating family and all its attached awkwardness. While “The Babadook” confronts certain themes of guilt and loss that affect a family in times of grief, “Housebound” grapples with comparatively more mundane issues of empathy and acceptance amongst family members, yet manages to do so with an equal amount of poignancy and a tad more sarcasm. It’s difficult not to be reminded of one’s own mother while watching Wiata’s splendid performance as a thrift-store sweater clad middle-aged chatterbox who, though wondrously out of touch with modern technology, stops at nothing to communicate her unconditional love to her sulky brat of a daughter. In turn, O’Reilly conveys some of the more interesting complexities I’ve seen in a female character of late, simultaneously detestable and likeable and altogether blithely well-rounded. The women of “Housebound” are indeed one of my favourite components of the film, but they are only some of many to be enjoyed.

If you’re looking to see the next big cult hit before anyone else, go and watch “Housebound” right now.
It’s different, it’s funny as hell, it’s scary, and it’s pitch perfect. The performances are great, the cinematography is slick, the pace will keep you entertained and the script will have you in stitches at one moment and awash in sentiment the next. This is a fantastic horror film. In fact, “Housebound” is so much fun, you may even want to watch it with your mom.

My Rating: 9.5/10


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About Angela

Angela McInnes is an English major and up-and-coming horror film aficionado. To her, happiness is a bottle of rum and a creature-feature on a Saturday night.

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