Housebound film review – Bad Taste meets Wes Craven

Comedy horror Housebound could well end up being a future cult hit


After bringing the house down (sorry) at FrightFest last year, Gerard Johnstone’s New Zealand horror comedy Housebound finally makes its way to DVD and Blu-ray.

The film comes with Peter Jackson’s seal of approval, but it actually owes a lot more to the movies of Wes Craven, turning the family home into a treacherous deathtrap filled with unpredictable threats, although it’s certainly very funny.

Teenager Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is caught attempting to break into an ATM – badly – complete with embarrassing CCTV footage. As the worst possible punishment, she is sentenced to house arrest living with her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and her silent step-dad Graeme (Ross Harper).

Miriam is convinced that their house is haunted, but Kylie’s having none of it – until there’s evidence she can’t ignore. What is the spirit haunting the Bucknell house, and what does it want?

It’s difficult to talk too much about Housebound without spoiling it. First-time writer-director Johnstone’s ingenious script consistently wrong-foots the audience and shifts from one subgenre to another without ever once losing its grip on the comedic elements. It’s creepy, tense and scary.

The film’s greatest success is the relationship between Kylie and her mum. Their back and forth, complete with ancient resentments, is beautifully observed, and both O’Reilly and Te Wiata are absolutely spot-on as the bitter teen and the well-meaning mum respectively. It’s also worth mentioning Harper, who is a particularly deadpan delight as Graeme.

At times the film seems to slow down a little too much, and it’s definitely a bit too long at 107 minutes. That being said, when it feels like we’ve settled into an overly comfortable groove, Johnstone gives the wheel a sharp turn and we find ourselves in a new situation entirely.

It’s best seen having read as little as possible about it, as Housebound is a hilarious and unpredictable horror comedy, and definitely marks Johnstone as a filmmaker to watch.