New Zealand horror-comedy Housebound (2014) was the opening night film for SUFF 2014. Unfortunately I was not able to be at the festival when it kicked off on the Thursday night. Thankfully though, the film played again on the Saturday night and the rapturous reception it had gotten on social media after the opening night screening had me very keen to take it in.
Right from the get-go, the festival crowd was totally into Housebound. Horror-comedy is a hard genre combo to nail. It is pretty rare for a film, even supposed classics of the genre, to actually elicit legitimate reactions to both the horror and comedy aspects of the film. Most attempts, even good ones, often end up being good comedies with smatterings of horror tropes. It is hard to maintain the stakes that are needed for a good horror film whilst keeping things light-hearted. This film though, had the crowd reacting with both huge laughs and literal screams of terror. The set-up for the film is one so fantastic, you wonder why it has taken for 2014 for someone to use it. Being stuck in a haunted house on house arrest is just so simple, yet has great potential as well, which the filmmakers mine all the way to a cracking film.
In the lead role Morgana O’Reilly as Kylie inhabits her under house arrest struggler with sass and a great screen presence. In fact all of the main performances, O’Reilly’s, Glen-Paul Waru as Amos the policeman who awesomely moonlights as a paranormal investigator and Rimi Te Wiata as Kylie’s mother make this so much more of a joy. That final character is so spot on and reminded me of my own mum and grandmother. She has the most frustrating aspects of both those generations amplified to hilariously frustrating levels – her refusal to shut up and horrendous casual racism. You can sense the infuriation Kylie feels at being confined to a house with her for six months, as if that may be the greatest horror of all. The characters and the narrative show really sharp, taut and clever writing from the filmmakers. The comedy is hilarious, being ludicrous without ever being so over the top that it’s distracting. And in terms of horror, there is plenty lot of really clever toying with and slight inversions of the genre’s cliché and foibles that will bring broad smiles to fans of the genre.
Verdict: Do your absolute best to see Housebound and you won’t regret it. If at all possible, see it with a rowdy, cinema loving festival crowd and get swept up in the reaction to both horror and hilarity that the film elicits. If I could really be fussed I could pick slight issues with the film. But simply, it’s probably the best comedy and the best horror film I have seen this year. Pint of Kilkenny