Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Film Review - 'Housebound'

A horror/comedy film from New Zealand, Housebound is a film that is quite happy to blend different styles and sub-genres as it works its way toward its final, and suitably bloody, climax. Housebound is, also, the first film directed by Gerard Johnstone - who also acted as writer and editor on the low budget production.

Kylie's (Morgana O'Rielly) life seems to have hit a bit of a dead end. After working her way through a variety of rehabilitation programs, she finds herself in court once more, when a plan to rob an ATM using a sledgehammer and explosives ends with her arrest. Rather than being sent to prison, though, a surprisingly lenient judge comes to the conclusion that, perhaps, once final attempt at rehabilitation would be in her best interests. The only problem, though, is that this latest attempt at rehabilitation takes the form of 8 months of house arrest in the family home that she had fled years earlier - moving her back in with her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), and her step-father, Graeme (Ross Harper). The judge's hope is that this will give Kylie some degree of stability and guidance - but, it quickly becomes clear that, as far as Kylie is concerned, prison would probably be preferable.

But, being forced to endure isolation and the seemingly endless prattling of her well-meaning mother isn't the only problem that Kylie faces. She soon learns that Miriam has reason to believe that their old house may be haunted. Kylie is quite blatant about her scepticism, though - but, an encounter of her own in the basement leads her to believe that there may be a mysterious prowler lurking about the house.

To Kylie's increasing annoyance, though, Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the security guard responsible for monitoring Kylie, also happens to be an amateur ghost hunter - so, when he hears about Miriam's theories, he immediately offers to launch an investigation of his own. It's not long until they discover that this old house of was once the site of a brutal, and still unsolved, murder. And, at the same time, the increasing instance of strange sounds and unusual occurrences leaves Kylie increasingly convinced that Amos and her mother may have been right. But, as they dig deeper into the house's mystery, things start to get increasingly out of hand.

There is a fair bit of deliberate misdirection to wade through before we get to anything resembling a clear resolution to the increasingly bizarre plot of Housebound. Starting with the standard features of your typical 'haunted house' tale, the film changes direction multiple times - with the film-makers casually tossing in new elements, like unsolved murders and sinister neighbours, as it suits them. Without going into any details that might spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it, it's probably fair to say that the film you'll be watching by the end will be a very different one to what you might have expected going in. With all of these changes in direction, though, there's also the question of exactly how well the various pieces fit together. Of course, by the end film's plot will have become so absurdly convoluted that it probably isn't worth dwelling on.

Kylie's aggressive and confrontational attitude toward just about anyone that resembles a figure of authority makes her an incredibly difficult character to like, early on - so much so, in fact, that she actually made the film's first act a bit of a struggle for me to sit through. The thought of having to spend an entire film following the progress of this absurdly obnoxious woman wasn't one that I found particularly appealing - and, even the knowledge that she was clearly meant to be annoying didn't help much.

Thankfully, though, those same attributes work to her advantage when the film's more overt 'horror' elements come into play. There's no point in the film where Kylie becomes genuinely likable, to any great extent - but, seeing her react to standard 'horror film' scenarios with the same level of belligerent aggression she shows to everything else is oddly satisfying. Miriam and Amos are much more likable characters, fortunately - with each being genuinely endearing in their own way. Together, they are able to somewhat balance out the blatantly obnoxious Kylie - and, provide characters that the audience might actually be willing to support.

Like with many films that attempt to blend horror with comedy, the film's various attempts to elicit laughs from the audience comes at the cost of undermining any sense of genuine dread - meaning that, again much like with similar comedy/horror films, Housebound leans much more toward 'comedy', then it does 'horror'. This is especially true toward the end of the film, where moments of violent action take on a very deliberate 'slapstick' quality. Thankfully, though, the majority of the film's attempts at humour actually work quite well - meaning that, while Housebound probably wont scare you, it should definitely earn a few laughs.

No comments:

Post a Comment