FrightFest 2014: Housebound
Gerard Johnstone's riotous debut skilfully mixes horror and hilarity
Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Kiwi first-time writer-director Gerard Johnstone, who casts two exquisitely expressive ladies in his deliriously funny and downright scary haunted house horror. A combination of fantastic performances and a script which keeps you guessing makes for a thoroughly entertaining and strangely touching exploration of the mother-daughter relationship.
Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is placed under house arrest in her family home after a botched ATM raid and is forced to endure hostile relations with her mother Miriam (the superb Rima Te Wiata), alongside the attention of things that go bump in the night. She buddies up with an endearingly calamitous security guard Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), who has been placed in charge of monitoring her ankle tag, to solve this supernatural mystery.
Littered with colourful characters, including parents with a penchant for Coronation Street and a pale Jodorowsky-alike figure, much of the film is played for laughs, and it never quite goes where you expect it to. It’s no surprise Peter Jackson has given his blessing to this romp as it shares the same barmy sense of humour as his earliest endeavour, Bad Taste.
O’Reilly is wonderful as Kylie, who reverts back to being a moody teen: scowling, lazing around and pushing her mother to the edge. Perfect comic timing abounds, with a cheese-grater to the face and a peeing scene (that's even longer than the one from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) just a couple of humorous high points. Incredibly taut and impressively intricate chase sequences and sparsely used but effective jump scares add to Housebound's off-kilter charm.
Underneath its comical surface lies a story about responsibility, parenting and a troubling history of neglect. With Housebound Johnstone asks his audience not to look the other way in the most intriguing and riotous way possible.
Screening at Vue West End, Leicester Square, London on Fri 22 Aug as part of FrightFest 2014. General release TBC.