Capsule Review Comedy

'Housebound' Toronto After Dark Capsule Review

October 18, 2014Ben MK


There must be something in New Zealand's water supply, because the country responsible for such exports as Sir Peter Jackson, Russell Crowe and the Flight of the Conchords has gone and done it again. This time, it's Housebound, the feature debut of writer/director Gerard Johnstone. The quirky horror-comedy has been making the rounds on the festival circuit, scaring up laughs and frightening filmgoers from the South Pacific to the Great White North. And rightly so, as it breathes new life into a well-worn staple of the horror genre, blending haunted house chills and home invasion thrills, with a heaping dose of Kiwi humor to boot.

The story revolves around Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly), an angst-ridden young woman whose relationship with her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), is dysfunctional, to say the least. So when a judge sentences Kylie to eight months house arrest at Miriam's home, for her role in a botched ATM robbery, it's a bitter pill to swallow. Better make that "haunted house arrest" though, because Miriam is convinced there's something supernatural lurking within the walls of her residence. It's an opinion Kylie is quick to dismiss — that is, until she herself has an eerie encounter one night.

It's almost impossible to talk more about the plot without spoiling the fun, as much of Housebound's charm derives not only from the bickering mother-daughter duo of O'Reilly and Te Wiata (plus Glen-Paul Waru as Amos, a security guard who also dabbles in paranormal research), but from how it upends some of the genre conventions. Johnstone takes pleasure in deconstructing viewers' expectations about what a haunted house pic should be. And the result is an atmospheric and imaginative roller coaster ride — one that twists and turns its way to a hilariously crowd-pleasing grand finale.

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