They say that if you’re going to make your first horror movie and you’ve only got a small budget (which goes without saying really) then try to keep the cast small and have the story set mostly in one location. The Evil Dead, The Devil’s Rock and many others have done it. Now Housebound takes this idea and makes it central to the plot in a witty and clever way.
Kylie is a drug taking Kiwi crook who fails miserably to rob a cash machine and ends up with what, judging by the look on her face, is a sentence worse than death: she’s consigned by leg tag to live at her mother’s house for eight months. So after two scenes at the bank and then at the court we along with Kylie are at the family home for pretty much the rest of the film.
You can see why she hates being there: it’s in the middle of nowhere, they only have old analogue tv and worst of all, dial up Internet. Of course the reason why Kylie hates the place is because of her mother. Rima Te Wiata plays her mother Miriam and is a relentlessly perky chatterbox who any daughter would want to strangle. From an outsiders point of view you can see she is actually a kind and positive person but I can imagine being stuck in the house with her for eight months would drive me up the wall. Especially with all the history Kylie has with her.
This relationship is the key to whole film. I’ve known many mothers and daughters who have had a lifetime rubbing each other up the wrong way, and housebound gets this spot on. It’s not even done through any big speeches or anything, you can just feel the huge tension between these women. It helps that both of them are fantastic in their roles. Te Wiata is hilarious as she desperately pleads with Kylie to let her watch Coronation Street – seemingly her one moment of happiness in the week. Morgana O’Reilly as Kylie is equally as good, able to put most of the other characters in their place with just a withering look or a suck of a beer bottle.
Ah! But this is a horror movie site and this isn’t a drama about a mother and daughter’s damaged but funny relationship. Pretty much as soon as she is in the house she starts hearing weird noises in the bathroom and things crawling around in the night. It seems Miriam is quite convinced that there’s something haunting the cellar – she calls a radio talk show and says she saw a dirty white sheet in there once. Kylie also soon starts believing in the supernatural and when her probation officer turns out to be an amateur paranormal investigator then things… Actually after that nothing goes the way you think it will go. It sounds like it’s going to be one kind of horror movie but I’m afraid I’m not going to say anymore about it. It’s definitely worth seeing and it falls into the category of really good FUN horror and is really well made and acted. So I’ll leave it at that.
There’s only one thing that bugged the shit out of me about Housebound and that is the music. For the most part it is very well done and fitting to the film. However, it does the old jump scare sound so often in the first half of the film that I started banging by head against the back of the chair hoping it would stop. For example, When Miriam first steps into frame near the beginning of the story there is the jump scare note. Why? At no point have we built any tension up to this. It’s not like Kylie is in a spooky situation, she’s sitting in a car with her probation officers. It’s just been added to create what? Unease? Fear or her mother? A cheap fright? Presumably the latter. This happens again and again to the point where it becomes annoying and boring. It might seem like a minor thing (and I know I’ve moaned about it in other films too) but I think Housebound really showed me why it annoys me so much. Later in the film there are a few genuinely good jump scares and do you know how I reacted? I didn’t. I didn’t jump at all, and that is because the stupid waisted jump scares at the beginning of the movie numbed me to them. It’s like the boy who cried wolf, only with an orchestra.
Anyway, that is pretty much it for the complaining though, other than that Housebound is pretty much faultless. It works really well at balancing the horror and the comedy – no mean feat as a hundred Cockneys Vs Zombies can’t tell you- and even the house is an interesting character. Actually now I think about it maybe the budget wasn’t that small, the house is so packed with interesting knocks and crannies that it must have been made on a fair sized sound stage rather than an actual house in the New Zealand countryside. Still, whatever… it’s a lovely bit of film making.