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XLrator Media // Unrated // October 17, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
When it comes to the horror comedy mixture, foreign releases seem to be delivering the goods. This has been the case for quite a few years, as films such as Shaun of the Dead have impressed moviegoers around the world. Many American filmmakers simply don't seem to understand how to achieve an appropriate balance between the two genres without one completely overpowering the other. Often times, the horror is predictable, the comedy is painfully unfunny, or both. However, writer/director Gerard Johnstone is now taking a stab at this monster of a hybrid. Is it ultimately a successful venture worth all of the festival hype?
After once again showing up to court for a crime committed, Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly) is forced to return to the house that she grew up in on house arrest. Kylie has difficulty getting along with her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), as they struggle for control over the household. The longer Kylie spends in this house, the more she begins to believe that it's haunted by an angry spirit, as she continues to experience unsettling occurrances, leading to a horrific truth that could jeopardize the safety of both Kylie and her family.
The film opens to Kylie's criminal attempt, as she obviously fails to get away. Housebound displays its comedic roots almost instantly, as Johnstone covers his humorous bases. We've got everything from sarcasm to slapstick within the first couple minutes, all while being introduced to the situation that our protagonist is about to be placed in. A few genuine chuckles are found rather quickly, especially as we're introduced to Miriam and her interactions with Kylie. Given that she's on house arrest, it's fair to say that the logical idea of simply leaving the house is not a possibility. Not only does this fix a major plot hole in many supernatural horror flicks, but it also allows comedic conversations to flow smoother in a more claustrophobic space. This lack of space allows the interactions to occur both frequently and naturally. Regardless of whether or not you find the humor effective, you will be sure to enjoy the mother-dauther relationship at the center of this story, which has its own power.
As the picture continues to move about, Housebound proves to utilize a lot of familiar plot beats. This is due to the fact that Johnstone is taking what has been effective in the past, and is utilizing these techniques as a way to scare us, as well as make us laugh. Unfortunately, it isn't all successful. A large number of the jokes simply fall flat, making for some rather uncomfortably silent moments in the picture. Yet, it quickly picks itself back up, and moves forward. While the second half of the running time still lends itself to its comedic elements, it primarily sets its sights on the horror genre. There are a few genuinely good thrills incorporated, as Johnstone creates a certain amount of tension by keeping the investigated phenomenon a secret. We're never quite entirely sure who we can trust, ultimately making for the type of feature that wants us to put the pieces together. It's excellent that Johnstone trusts his viewers enough to do this.
The third act of Housebound lends itself to a very specific type of horror film, and fans will instantly be able to identify what it's imitating. There's a clear attempt to make this a violent finale filled with laughs, although it simply isn't as effective as it thinks it is. A large amount of the gags that worked in the first half of the running time have become a bit stale over the course of the motion picture. Writer/director Gerard Johnstone has delivered an intriguing premise, although it begins to outstay its welcome during this final act, especially as we reach the picture's silly conclusion, which feels far too removed from the feature's earlier material. It's a shame that Johnstone couldn't have remained focus on the elements that worked, rather than needing to constantly explore different territory.
Quite a bit of the humor is heavily improved upon by the presence of this well-cast group of actors. Morgana O'Reilly is quite good in the role of Kylie Bucknell. She delivers this character in a convincing fashion, especially as the character begins to open up a little bit more. There's more to this role than meets the eye. Rima Te Wiata is most certainly the funniest member of the cast as Miriam Bucknell. Her delivery of the material proves to be absolutely excellent. The interactions shared with O'Reilly are sure to generate some of the picture's most genuine laughs. If it wasn't for this wonderful twosome, a large amount of the picture's impact would have been lost, as they provide the film with a sense of character that proves highly effective.
Writer/director Gerard Johnstone also incorporates a number of visual gags through the final act of the picture. The majority of them are quite effective, as Johnstone's direction proves to work rather well. A large majority of the picture comes with a welcoming tone that one would expect from the household that the picture takes place in, yet it has a certain tweak to the atmosphere, providing a sense of uneasiness. This is an excellent balance of visual direction from both the horror and comedy genres, as they compliment one another in a way that allows the picture's sense of visuals to shine. Even when things get gory, Johnstone's even balance of tone never quivers. It's just a shame that this same mastery couldn't be utilized in the screenplay.
While some will surely have a more impactful experience, Housebound didn't leave much of an impression on me. Being a fan of this particular genre blend, this should have been right up my alley. However, it has pacing issues that cause the picture to overstay its welcome. Even so, this is a film with its own share of brilliant moments. The interactions found between this mother and daughter pair are truly something to behold. This is where the film's true heart lies, as it offers laughs, thrills, and so much more. Perhaps exploring this angle a bit further would have allowed the picture to flourish in a greater way. Housebound is an inviting piece of cinema that could have benefited from a stronger balance. This film comes with a light recommendation.