Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound

From early Peter Jackson to early Taika Waititi and many in between there has always been a steady low hum of horror output from New Zealand and Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound is a gorgeous little example of kiwi genre gold, an airtight, creaky would-be haunted house jaunt that knows how to be genuinely spooky while splashing just the right doses of dark humour in here and there and leading the audience down a breadcrumb trail of mystery that’s fun to discern alongside the main character. She’s called Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) and as we meet her the NZ court system has finally reached its last straw as far as her methamphetamine and booze fuelled delinquent behaviour is concerned, placing her under ankle bracelet adorned house arrest with her weak willed mother (Rima Te Wiata) and meek stepfather (Ross Harper) in a rural enclave. The strained family dynamic is a sheepish joy to watch as this brat with a (deeply guarded) heart of gold makes life hell for her parental unit, but there’s something else in the house just waiting to make life hell for the three of them and soon weird sounds abound, creepy movements are observed and it becomes apparent that they aren’t alone. The cool thing is that the location scouts and set builders have created a house atmosphere that feels legitimately dusty, cluttered, oblong, weary and actually *lived in*, which isn’t always the case in haunted house outfits. Reilly is engaging and likeable as Kylie, even when she’s being a pain in the ass we never get the sense that this girl is truly a bad egg, just a lost and confused one who needs a rather intense outlet to channel her anger and pent-up negative energy into, and what better than a sly, possibly supernatural home invasion? I can’t go into too much detail about the central mystery and origins of the poltergeist shenanigans other than to say it’s a fun ball of yard to unravel alongside Kylie and goes to some narrative pitstops that are often fun, shocking and surprising. It’s goofy, it’s gory, it’s very well written and acted, it’s got tons of humour, a little heart, heaps of cobwebbed atmosphere and is just a great damn time at the horror movies. Streaming on Shudder now, highly recommended.

-Nate Hill

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