A mishmash of genre-bending theatrics, "Housebound" is executed by all involved with just enough sarcasm and fanboy-ish reverence to make its deceptively cliché, knee-slappingly preposterous storyline culminate into a thoroughly entertaining and ultimately satisfying experience. Taking a few lessons from its kin to the north-west (Austrailia), this New Zealand horror flick, if you'd categorize it as such, somehow manages to deviate from the genre's multitude of restrictions whilst simultaneously paying homage to the very boundaries it intentionally ran from...confusingly enough.
After a botched ATM heist, Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is confined to her childhood home with her blabber-mouth, well-meaning mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and her soft-spoken stepfather on house-arrest. Irritated to say the least with the sentencing, it doesn't take long for Kylie to assume control of the household through sheer anger and inconsiderate indifference. Not long after settling in, Kylie overhears her mother chatting away on a local radio station about a few supernatural occurrences she's witnessed firsthand throughout the house. Dismissing the rant as a conversation-starting ploy, Kylie returns to her mastery of laziness and filth. However, when unexplainable events begin to plague Kylie's court-mandated vacation, it's escape or face the unknown, something this veteran burglar is all-too comfortable with.
Director/writer Gerard Johnstone strikes an ideal balance of ambition and sensibility in his feature debut. "Housebound" definitely picks its battles, most importantly thinking outside the box without breaking the bank, as crucial a concession there is for a first time filmmaker. Johnstone's ingenuity and resourcefulness is most prominently showcased through the film's remarkably interwoven smorgasbord of genres. Combining elements of horror (obviously), thriller, comedy, and drama allows "Housebound" to create sequences teeming with originality and an invigorating, youthful inspiration. Most notably, approaching the film's climax, "Housebound" takes a surprisingly poignant turn and dives headfirst into rectifying the family drama, which, despite being pushed to the back burner for a majority of the film, draws one of the strongest reactions from the viewer.
Although "Housebound's" unconventional splicing of several genres allows for strength distinctly separate from its retro horror foundation, there's no denying that horror is what "Housebound" does best. The film's horror elements crescendo to a bloody, fright-filled man/spirit-hunt with the likes of a cheese grater and an elaborately constructed electrocution machine making the most of there destructive prowess. Additionally, if you happen to have an irrational, uncontrollable fear of stuffed animals or tight spaces, this might not be the flick for you. That said, if you can power-through the fits of breathlessness and anxiety, there's more than a few laughs to be had.
The film's leading lady, Morgana O'Reilly, a street-hardened young adult faced with an inexplicable force and no where to go, gives a performance that forgoes all the stereotypical attributes of a scream queen and rejuvenates it for the modern age. Strong, independent, smart, and fearless, O'Reilly isn't your parents scream queen. As for O'Reilly's counterpart, Rima Te Wiata, she's tasked with providing a significant chunk of the film's humour, no easy feat when faced with impending dread around every corner...nonetheless, Wiata does a bang-up job. That said, her character does highlight some of the more loathsome points of horror film moms. Lastly, keep an eye out for Cameron Rhodes, not always front and centre, but without question gives the most memorable performance.