Thursday, September 15, 2016

Grounded For Life and Whatever’s Beyond, or Thoughts on Housebound

Written and Directed by Gerard Johnston, Housebound (2014) is a sly and sarcastic New Zealand horror movie that plays with genres and treads that fine line between comedy and tragedy.  If What We Do in The Shadows (2014), a similar New Zealand film, is a comedy with horror elements, Housebound is a horror movie with comedic elements.  It’s a subtle difference, but the ratio of scares to laughs remains the same. 
Housebound follows Kylie, an unlucky or just plain stupid junkie bank robber who is oddly sympathetic, due to the natural charisma and likeability of the actress portraying her, Morgana O’Reilly.   After a security cam montage of an inept cash machine heist and a quick trial, Kylie is sentenced to house arrest at her mum’s house and fitted with a fancy high-tech ankle monitor.
The movie focuses on the relationship between Rima Te Wiata as Miriam, the thankless mum who believes in ghosts and Kylie, who reverts back to old teen patterns and resentments.  It’s a brilliant setup for a ghost story with sly jump scares that play with the audience’s expectations and keep you guessing and also clever usage of sound to establish mood and tone.  Kylie is continually drawn to the cluttered and oppressive basement that seems to be full of haunted teddy bears and mysterious shrouds.  Kylie’s not your typical horror movie girl, she may be frightened, but her natural response is to fight back.
Glen-Paul Waru portrays Rima, the clumsy amateur ghost hunter who befriends Kylie and supplies most of the physical comedy.   The second half of the movie degenerates (or evolves) into a gloriously hysterical movie slasher bloodbath involving kitchen knives, toy xylophones and laundry baskets.  And also cheese graters.
The film is reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive/Braindead (1992, you didn’t think I could write about New Zealand without mentioning Peter Jackson), the gold standard for New Zealand horror comedies.  Comedy horror is a tricky genre because it’s so much easier to be funny than scary, which is deceptive because humor is a natural response to terror.  Laughter releases tension while the thriller wants to build it, but combining these two opposing forces into something dramatic and creative can be a challenge.  Housebound succeeds in playing with expectations, taking the viewer in one direction before spinning them around in another, and the end result is closer to The Boy (2016) than The Dead Room (2015).

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).