This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 7th September 2014
Take a genre film and smash it in the face, they (presumably) said. And so, in the spirit of Joss Whedon’s table-turning Cabin in the Woods, this Kiwi comedy-horror amply demonstrates the eviscerating wit that New Zealand so often produces with aplomb.
Kylie (a fabulously stroppy Morgana O’Reilly) is sentenced to home detention for her involvement in a not-so-petty crime. She reluctantly moves back to live with her dotty mum, eye-rollingly weary (more than wary) that the house is said to be haunted. Determined to while away her days amongst beer cans and pizza boxes, Kylie is suddenly spurred into action as soon as the paranormal activity commences, and she’s got to get up off the couch to slam down those pesky bad spirits.
From go to whoa the script is ridden with genre in-jokes and ridiculous sound cues that are hilarious and clever (the old modem dial-up elicited a burst of acknowledging laughter from my audience). It’s no wonder – Housebound was written and directed by Gerard Johnstone who knows how to punctuate dry wit having worked on The Jaquie Brown Diaries. This first feature outing heralds him as one to watch.
Housebound recalls the tone and vigour of The Frighteners and Brain Dead, and doubtless the actors’ deadpan Kiwi delivery is a key contributor to the viewer’s delight. In fact, like its counterpart What We Do in the Shadows, part of Housebound’s charm is its indigenous feel, with a production design that is all manic wallpaper and crocheted quilts, and the welcome return of comedy legend Rima Te Wiata.
But, as Kylie would demand, it’s Morgana O’Reilly who owns the film, surely destined for the role given that great face and the matching sullen attitude. (Now a Neighbours girl, O’Reilly was also captivating in the wonderful local short film Ten Thousand Days.) As things start to go haywire, Kylie’s not having any of it. “What are you going to do against the hostile spirit? Make jokes?” demands Amos, the dead serious ghost-hunter. “Nah, I’m going to smash it in the face,” she growls.