Horror might not be the highest grossing genre at the moment, but it is perhaps one of the most popular, as evident by the continuous wave of horror films being released year after year – people love to be scared in a controlled environment, and as long as there have been films, there have been people trying to make us jump and hide beneath the covers. With a horror film opening almost every week, all year, and many going straight to video, it is easy for people to say there might be a lack of originality in the genre – just look at the sheer amount of demonic possession movies we’ve gotten lately. So it is so refreshing to see a film like Housebound come along, because while it doesn’t redefine the horror genre, it does make some very bold choices to make it original and not quite like something we’ve ever seen before.
The most common complaint many of us have with horror films, especially the increasingly popular sub-genre of the haunted house, is that a normal family would just get the hell out of that house at the first sign that it was haunted. I am pretty sure after seeing a ghost, a family would need much encouragement to leave. However, what if you can’t leave? That is the basic hook of Housebound – normally, under the circumstances, one would just drop everything and go somewhere else, but if you’re like the protagonist, Kylie, and you are under house arrest, you pretty much have to deal with your home. What makes it even more difficult is if you home is haunted. It is a very satirical look at the countless number of films before it that tell a similar story about a malicious spirit bothering an initially skeptical young protagonist.
Of course, small films like this always open doors for introductions to new performers we wouldn’t have really been able to see elsewhere – in Housebound, this comes in the form of Morgana O’Reilly as Kylie, the formerly drug-addicted, currently hostile and foul-mouthed young lady put under house arrest who goes from skeptic to believer almost immediately. O’Reilly is a great protagonist, and even though she is a despicable character, she is endearing and we root for her. The breakout performance of the film comes from Rima Te Wiata, who plays Kylie’s mother. She is well-meaning, but a complete klutz. She also knows more than we think, and she is not the complacent, simple mother she is set up to be. Te Wiata gives a very funny and scene-stealing performance as Miriam, and she is truly a lot of fun. By casting relative unknowns in this film, it lends a more realistic aspect to the film, and we are able to enter the world of Housebound and become entangled in its horrors a lot better than if it was a lavish mainstream production.
All the best horror films have a streak of humor in them, and Housebound really capitalizes on that. It is actually one of the more authentic horror comedies I’ve seen – most horror comedies are just plain parodies which go for gross-out humor and complete farcical send-ups of the genre. Housebound does the opposite – it still remains scary, suspenseful and tense, but is also frequently very funny without ever entering spoof territory. It is both genuinely scary and incredibly funny, and it has considerable restraint on both counts – it uses the element of suspense to its advantage, and thankfully (for those of us who hate them), there are very few jump scares. Instead, the terror in Housebound comes not from what we can see and do know, but from what we can’t see and don’t know, what is lurking in the shadows or just behind the doors. The self-depreciating and sardonic humor also add to the overall enjoyment of the film.
Housebound is a lot of fun. It is scary, but not terrifying enough to cause massive panic. It is truly a great little independent horror comedy, and surprised me in how sophisticated it was. I really enjoyed it and I think any fan of horror will love it for being different, and any casual film lover will appreciate it as well. It is quirky and wonderfully weird and a really surprising little film, and worth it both for the scares and the laughs, both of which the film has plenty of.