Housebound; or There’s Something in the Walls Again

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Shut-In Sunday. Just when you thought it was safe to stay at home, your hosts Andy and Lilly are here to remind you to check your closets.

Today’s film offering: Housebound

The horror of family portraits is real.
The horror of family portraits is real.

Andy: You know, New Zealand is turning into a bit of a horror-comedy gold mine. First, there’s the thoroughly weird Black Sheep

Lilly: Then a film we are reviewing later in the month, What We Do in the Shadows

Andy: –and now here comes Housebound, a film so breezy and well-put together that it’s amazing that it’s from a first time director.

Anyway. The plot concerns a young tearaway played by Morgana O’Reilly who is sentenced to the worst punishment imaginable – house arrest with her ditsy mother and bland-but-pleasant stepfather. Unfortunately, her mother (and the security contractor in charge of her ankle bracelet, in a hilarious twist) think that the house is haunted.

The worst part for our disillusioned jerk of a protagonist is that they may be right.

Lilly: Cue spooky shenanigans!

Housebound is essentially two stories at once: the story of a mother and daughter reconnecting and trying to learn how to understand one another and the story of the living trying to understand the dead. It features characters who are from each end of the spectrum between the alive and the dearly departed; the mother, who is going through the motions of a life with her disconnect from reality, a daughter who just wants to live free, the ghost in the house, looking for closure, and then…there seems to be something in the walls.

Sound familiar?

Andy: Yeah, it’s not the most original of plots, but it’s all done with such skill and joie de vivre it’s hard not to get swept along. Plus it kept surprising me with great little touches, like the developing friendship between Kylie, our housebound hero, and Amos, the security contractor. It helps that everyone is so consistently characterised.  I mean, of course the guy who twiddles with sophisticated electronic equipment for his living also has an EMP detector.

Trouble is, it’s also one of those films that’s so good you don’t want to give too much away.

Lilly: This is a constant struggle for me, with these reviews. I basically want to tell you readers all the great things we see in the film, but some of those great things are super big spoilers, so…I can’t. And with this film, being as new as it is and as fun as it is, well…It’s just. It’s great.

The pace is fantastic, I can tell you that much. It was clearly done by people who understand that horror isn’t something you can either rush or trudge along with. It’s a fine line, and Housebound really takes note of it. You weren’t miles ahead, knowing exactly what was going to happen, nor were you miles behind, having no idea what was going along, and I love that in a film.

As I often do, I also want to comment on the characterizations–which Andy touched on as well–mainly of the protagonist and her mother. Their relationship is intense and sad and hard to watch at times, and that is very much down to the writing. Both are very real, very human characters, and in a horror film, that is incredibly important. You can’t get behind the monsters not getting them if they are monsters themselves.

Andy: It’s better than Black Sheep, but less broadly funny. There’s less laugh-out-loud moments, but the humour is wry, knowing and very consistent. It’s the antithesis of what we reviewed yesterday – sublime, not clunky, with interesting characters and an unpredictable plot.

This is one we definitely recommend, and desperately want to get the word out on.

Lilly: So go forth and watch it–and hey, let us know what you think!

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