Housebound (2014, 1hr 47 mins)
Housebound, this year’s TADFF opener from New Zealand, didn’t initially catch my attention when I was compiling my list for the festival because I am usually wary of horror comedies, but this time, I have to agree with all the hoopla. This Kiwi kicker takes you on a rip-roaring comedy of horrific errors with heart.
Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is a petty criminal, and after her last botched robbery attempt, she is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home to benefit from some so-called stability with her nutter of a mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and mostly mute step dad Graeme (Ross Harper). She is surly, resentful and really difficult to be around. Her mother believes their house is haunted, and of course Kylie scoffs at this until she experiences some strange occurrences herself. With the help of her eager security officer and amateur parapsychology investigator Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), they stumble upon a many layered onion of mayhem that leaves you in stitches.
Housebound was a great vehicle to showcase some brilliant talent from Down Under. O’Reilly, who is apparently a seasoned T.V. actor and comedian, was incredible as the acerbic and basically awful Kylie who hid behind her meanness to protect the fragile girl inside. Waru played the perfect straight-man foil to Kylie, providing us with rapid-fire one-liners that elicited many a belly laugh, and Te Wiata nailed it as her loopy mother that sweetened the deal with her kooky interpretations of the mysterious goings-on. And last but not least, I have to mention the fantastic house itself. The design team did a great job of creating an aging childhood house of horrors seen through the eyes of an adult, like old school paintings, cramped bedrooms, a gross basement and creepy toys that were once beloved playthings.
Director Gerard Johnstone mastered the film’s roller coaster pace, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the last few minutes, and the writing was so clever and engaging that I immediately wanted to see more from this man, and hopefully soon. At the screening, we learned that we almost didn’t have the privilege of seeing this indie horror gem. There was apparently an issue with distribution, but at the 11th hour, Anchor Bay and Raven Banner, two champions of indie horror films picked it up, so do yourself a favour and go see it when it comes out. You won’t be sorry!