Monday, October 13, 2014

Housebound: Grounded in New Zealand

Kylie Bucknell is in for the mother of all grounding. She is a bad kid, but she discovers there is something downright evil lurking about her mother’s home. Unfortunately, that is where she must serve her sentence of court-mandated house arrest in writer-director-editor Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound (trailer here), which opens this Friday in select cities.

Bucknell fell in with the criminal element at its dumbest. After her last escapade, she and her ankle bracelet have been confined to her estranged mother’s house. Miriam Bucknell always told her it was a former bed & breakfast, but as things start going bump in the night, she soon discovers it had been a halfway house for disturbed youths that was shuttered after some sort of ominous scandal.

Is she in fact being haunted? To answer this question, she enlists the help of Amos, the security contractor monitoring her bracelet signal, who conveniently lives in the neighborhood. At first, he is a willing accomplice, but they soon encounter more mayhem than he bargained for.

While there is nothing awe-inspiringly original about Housebound, its horror movie mechanics are uncommonly good. Johnstone dexterously juggles a succession of clever red herrings and shows a knack for attitude-heavy Kevin Williamson-esque dialogue. It is not compulsively jokey, but there is humor in all the appropriate spots. Nor is it as gory as horror fans might expect, but it still pushes all the right buttons.

The real key to the film is evolving rapport between Morgana O’Reilly and Glen-Paul Waru, as Bucknell and Amos, respectively. Their bickering has an edge but it is not overwritten. It is also a relatively fresh basis for cinematic relationship on paper that works quite well in practice. Frankly, they seem to bring out the best in each other, because O’Reilly’s scenes with her mother and head-shrinker do not have the same zip. However, Ross Harper has some nice moments with her as the taciturn step-dad, Graeme.

Along with Danny Mulheron’s Fresh Meat, Housebound proves New Zealand should hold more interest for genre fans beyond providing the backdrop for Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies. Although not as pure “horror” as it sounds, Housebound provides a nifty macabre fix. Recommended rather enthusiastically for cult movie patrons, Housebound opens this Friday (10/17) in select markets.