Wednesday, June 18, 2014

HOUSEBOUND (2014) movie review

Housebound (2014) d. Gerard Johnstone (New Zealand)

Sentenced to eight months house arrest at her mother’s home, troubled wild child Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is saddled with an ankle bracelet, trying to co-exist with her amiable jabberjaw Mum (Rima Te Wiata), her barrel-chested ankle bracelet-supervising security officer, Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the creepy possum-skinning neighbor next door, and a restless spirit that seems to be residing within the walls of the family home.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of this Kiwi horror/comedy from rookie Johnstone is that it delivers honest laughs without diminishing any creep n’ scare elements. From the first sequence detailing an ATM heist gone hilariously wrong, the writer/director displays a terrific knack for tension and release, eliciting giggles born of discomfort and tension, as well as an array of snide biting comments from the various characters which happily feel more like organic responses than premeditated punchlines. Even the occasional gore moments (witness the inspired use of a cheese grater) emerge from a genuine dramatic scenario rather than pure shock effect.

Abrasive, chain-smoking, and authority-defying, O’Reilly (looking for all the world like an edgier, healthier Natalie Portman) conveys more with a simple lip curl, nostril flare, or eyebrow raise than a dozen monologues. However, in spite of her caustic exterior, we eventually grow to root for the dark-haired delinquent; an testament to O’Reilly’s impressive abilities, considering that we spend the first 30 minutes aching to reach into the screen and slap her character silly.

Similarly, Wiata’s motormouth tendencies are amusing enough to keep us on her side, but we understand why her offspring might be climbing the walls. The elder character’s romance with taciturn craftsman companion Graeme (Ross Harper) only adds to the charm. Waru is another ace in the hand, turning what could have been a clichéd bumbler stumbler into a loyal and dedicated hero.

Like any good ghost story, there is a mystery to be solved, one that perhaps points to a corporeal cause. The marvelously evolving chain of mishaps (keep your eyes on the mouth retainers and 3/4 scale Jesus figures) never feels cheap or gratuitous, and the narrative sustains an enviable amount of suspense and investment. Like any good rollercoaster ride, the final loop-de-loops are white-knucklers and you’ll be screaming and laughing all the way to the popcorn counter.

Quite simply one of the finest genre releases of the year, Housebound will be arriving on VOD and iTunes - as well as a limited theatrical release - on October 17, 2014 via XLerator Media. Don't miss it!

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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