Housebound. Director: Gerard Johnstone. Writer: Gerard Johnstone. Stars: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru |
How do you solve a problem like Kylie? That is the first question posed by the new and fantastic Kiwi ‘ghost’ chiller, HOUSEBOUND. Sure, Kylie’s not as musical-sounding as “Maria”, but then Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) isn’t much of a perky, happy-go-lucky kind of gal. In fact, she’s actually more the kind of teen who stays in juvenile detention. A lot. So much so, she’s in trouble from the opening frames, when she and a bumbling partner make a really failed attempt at robbing a local ATM.
Kylie’s been in the system so long at this point, and in so many ‘rehab programs’ for wayward girls, that it fazes her not one bit to find herself standing before a judge. Again. The judge’s ruling this time, however, manages to effectively penetrate her wall of sullenness. He sentences her…to eight months’ home detention. With her mother.
For Kylie, that is absolutely the last thing she wants to hear. We soon understand why when we see the creepy old manse she’s about to be confined to, and we meet her mum, Miriam, (the hysterical Rima Te Wiata – a delightful New Zealand cross between Melissa McCarthy and ALL IN THE FAMILY’S Jean Stapleton, as the loveable Edith Bunker). Miriam’s a kind-hearted sort, but a bit scattered, and her constant prattling on about anything and everything is enough to pretty much make anyone want to leave. Which her first husband, Kylie’s father actually did, well before his daughter followed suit. Now Miriam lives in the house with Kylie’s estranged stepdad, Graeme (Ross Harper).
But facing a situation where she has to get reacquainted with her parents is hardly the most of Kylie’s worries, when she finds out accidentally that Miriam has taken to calling into a local paranormal radio show…about her haunted house. Kylie hardly has the time or patience to deal with the living, and she’s certainly not about to invest in nonsense from ‘the great beyond’.
Not until evidence starts to present itself…that all in the house is not what it seems.
With a mystery afoot for solving, Amos, Kylie’s ‘parole officer’ (Glen-Paul Waru in a great performance that matches Te Wiata’s comic timing step-for-step) springs into action and begins checking out the house, plying his other stock in trade: as a “paranormal investigator.” The three of them become a kind of stalwart “Scooby Gang” as they try to put the pieces of the house’s puzzle together, and soon discover that it’s not the house that holds the deadliest secrets…
The feature debut of NZ TV writer/director Gerard Johnstone, HOUSEBOUND wears his obvious love for scary movies, and especially the films of his fellow countryman, Peter Jackson, on its dusty sleeve. However, the difference between HOUSEBOUND and, say, DEAD-ALIVE is that Johnstone has a deft touch for when to incorporate the ‘crazy’ and when to rein it in. He wisely makes it more about the story and the relationships, using some particularly funny/gory ‘splatstick’ moments more as the ‘seasoning’ for the proceedings, and not the entire meal.
There are also a few nice twists to the tried-and-true scenarios you’d usually find in this genre, including the added wrinkle that some primary characters’ pasts not only play an important part in the house’s own distant history, but also in the present as well…and that’s about all I want to say about that. But it is a smart script choice from Johnstone’s writing that I really appreciated.
As another semi-spoiler for those in-the-know, Johnstone may also be displaying a love for vintage American ‘70’s thrillers here, as there are more than a few nods to a very old but popular made-for-TV movie from that era, called BAD RONALD. If you’re someone who is deeply familiar with the genre, my apologies for having dropped such a huge hint. For everyone else, ignore that last sentence and just keep ‘going with the flow.’
Overall, I really enjoyed HOUSEBOUND, and particularly the chemistry between all of the lead actors. I have no idea if a sequel is planned, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this group together again for an encore, or in some other Gerard Johnstone project. They could even become for him, the same kind of dependable ensemble of players used by filmmakers like Richard Curtis, Edgar Wright or Sam Raimi.
Check out the Housebound Trailer;