If you have ever heard a strange noise in the night, thought you saw something moving in the shadows, or even remotely entertained the notion of your home being haunted, then Housebound is the film for you. Rejecting the found footage style filmmaking that has consumed the paranormal genre in recent years, Gerard Johnstone’s sensational feature film debut embraces the old-school ghost story aesthetics in the best possible way. Through the film’s engaging female lead, Johnstone takes the audience on a thoroughly enjoyable haunted house ride full of twist and turns.
After a failed attempt to steal money from a local ATM machine, Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home. As if going back to the parental nest was not bad enough, Kylie’s gossipy mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), is convinced that the house they have lived in for twenty years is haunted. Dismissing her mother’s claims as ludicrous, Kylie spends the bulk of her days turning her mother’s home into a pigsty by wasting the hours away like a slob watching television and drinking beer. However, when several strange occurrences begin to happen in the house, including hearing the sounds of a Motorala ringtone from a non-existent cell phone and her old Teddy Ruxpin style bear randomly talking in the middle of the night, Kylie starts to wonder if she is succumbing to her mother’s overactive imagination.
With the help of the paranormal obsessed Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the security guard assigned to ensure that she does not violate her house arrest; Kylie tries to make sense of the series of weird events. However, these amateur sleuths are not prepared for the dark secrets that lurk within the confines of the house.
What makes Housebound a truly thrilling crowd-pleaser is the way it infuses just the right amount of laughs, without ever losing its suspenseful atmosphere. The blend of humour and horror allows Johnstone to keep the audience off guard. One minute Johnstone evokes laughter through well-timed sight gags and the next he is making people jump out of their seats through some smart practical effects.
It also helps that the film has two fantastic female performances to anchor the story. Morgana O’Reilly is great as the strong-willed Kylie. Though terrorized for a good portion of the film, she never comes off like a victim. She is the type of woman who you believe would attempt to “punch ectoplasm in the face”…if such a thing was actually possible. O’Reilly has great chemistry with Te Wiata, who holds her own as the well meaning mother who may not have made the best choices in life. Miriam would rather catch up with her soap, Coronation Street, than confront the truth about the spirit in her home.
Though the last act of the film could have used some trimming, especially considering the large amount of revelations that occur, the pacing in this section can be overlooked. There is simply too much fun to be had to let minor quibbles sully the film. Housebound is one of those refreshing horror comedies that delivers everything the audience hopes for and more. The chills are genuine and the laughs are big. Housebound is a film that succeeds in bringing new life to classic ghost story tropes.