DreadWorld Review : Housebound (2014)

I stated in my Top 8 films of 2014 that there were several films that had been released during 2014 that were getting huge buzz that I just hadn't had the chance to take a look at, and that I would remedy that. Housebound is one of those buzzed about films of 2014. Combining horror, comedy, and just enough weirdness to peak most genre fans interest, Housebound found it's way onto many genre fans year end lists. But does Housebound really live up to the hype or is it just another victim of it's own expectations? Let's take a look, shall we?

When an attempt to rob an ATM vestibule goes horribly wrong, meth addict and all around terrible person Kylie is arrested. At the arraignment the judge throws Kylie a curve ball and forgoes a traditional treatment program. Instead, he sentences her to 8 months of house arrest - at her mothers house. It's a sentence most of us would shudder at, so it's no surprise that Kylie is none to happy with the situation. Once she arrives, she meets Amos, the security guard assigned to make sure that she stays put. Amos fits her with the requisite ankle bracelet and Kylie is a prisoner in her childhood home. It's not long after she arrives that she realizes that something is off about her mother and her mothers new found obsession with the notion that their house is haunted. After discovering that the house had been used for something a lot more specious than the simple "bed and breakfast" that Kylie had been told growing up, she enlists Amos to aid her in solving a decades old murder. The answer she is looking for turns out to be a lot more complicated than simple ghosts or murder.

Housebound is the first foray into feature film making for New Zealander Gerard Johnstone, and boy does he and the film deliver. As writer and director, Johnstone is able to pull off the deft balancing act between horror and comedy that is often the ruin of many film makers. The film is all at once terrifying, off-kilter, and laugh out loud funny. But Johnstone does not let any one element overwhelm any others. While the scary parts are scary, it doesn't cannibalize the levity of the film. Similarly, the jokes don't undermine the terror of the situation the characters find themselves in.

As Kylie starts to slowly unravel the mystery surrounding not only her house but the murder as well, lead actress Morgana O'Reilly shifts from annoyingly irascible to lead bad ass in the blink of an eye. O'Reilly leads the very strong cast, which is highlighted by Rima Te Wiata as Miriam, Kylies ghost obsessed, often clueless mother. Miriam simply wants Kylie to get better...and to prove that there are ghosts living in her house. When the actual answer as to "what goes bump in the night" is revealed, Miriam takes it in stride, almost disappointed that there aren't any malevolent spirits haunting her and her house.

If there is a criticism to be levied against Housebound, it's the fact that the film drags at certain points, especially at the beginning of the second act. When the credits roll, it feels like the film has wasted some valuable running time with the murder mystery sub-plot, where as that time might have been better spent dealing with what was really "haunting" in the house. That being said, the film ends with an almost Amblin-esque last reel that is sure to have you smiling from ear to ear.

Housebound is one of the best, most original horror/comedy films that has come along in recent years. While that particular sub-genre has elected to err on the side of comedy more than scares recently. Housebound has both its feet planted deeply in horror, while its tongue is planted firmly in its cheek. The film is currently streaming on Netflix, check it out - it's definitely worth it.

**** and 1/2 stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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