Movie Review: "Housebound"
When Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) tries to rob an ATM, she nearly gets away, but her car gets stuck and she gets arrested. As a result, the Judge determines that she has not responded well to rehab facilities in the past, so he sentences her to eight months of house arrest. Which house will she be staying in? Her mother's (Rima Te Wiata). So a security officer comes to the house and attaches an ankle monitor to Kylie's leg.
Kylie is an angry young woman and is immediately irritated with having to stay with her mother for eight months. The two do not get along, by any stretch of the imagination. While her mother is happy and kind, Kylie wants nothing to do with her. So she watches TV all day with the volume loud, does not clean after herself, and eats the food that her mother has prepared for dinner. She is really trying her best to make her mother as miserable as possible. Little does she realize, strange things have been occurring in the house.
Her mother thinks that the house is haunted, while Kylie is more skeptical. However, when Kylie starts witnessing some of these strange occurrences, she begins to doubt herself. Is her mother right or should Kylie maintain her skepticism? To find out, she must solve the mystery of what is going on in her mother's house, and she must do so while trying to maintain her sanity.
The Pros & Cons
The Setup (-3pts)
The Security (-3pts)
The Ending (-5pts)
Pro: Horror-Comedy (+8pts)
One of the best parts of this movie was the perfect blend between horror and comedy. The film has some intense horror while maintaining a regular pace of humor. The film does this very effectively by keeping the tone similar to that of a horror, but the characters are what provides the comedy. Kylie's mother, for instance, is a very silly and gullible character. So when all the lights cut out suddenly, the mother says something like "oh, they keep doing this" and she seems to think it is an electrical issue. That is just one example and it is in the trailer so be sure to check that out, so you get a better sense of the comedic timing. The next example of comedy comes from Kylie. I will get into it a bit later in this review, but a lot of this film's comedy comes from Kylie's reaction to the horrorific things that occur.
So the comedy comes from the characters and the horror comes from the environment. With creepy imagery, strange noises, toys moving, etc. This film definitely hits the tone of a good horror film as well as a good comedy. The blend of these two genres worked incredibly well and it made for a very unique film.
Con: The Setup (-3pts)
I realize that this was kind of a silly movie, but I thought the setup to the film was a bit weak. I really liked the concept of Kylie hating her mother, yet being placed on house arrest at her mothers house, which is haunted. I thought that was a really unique and fun premise. That being said, I thought the way the film executed that premise was weak.
Kylie is with a guy (who I assume to be her boyfriend but we never see or hear from him after this), and the two are trying to rob an ATM. The guy gets knocked unconscious, but Kylie decides to take the money and go. She nearly gets away but her car gets stuck as the police arrive. So far, strong start; I was invested. However I thought it seemed a bit ridiculous for her sentence to be eight months house arrest at her mother's house. Maybe other viewers will have a different opinion but I did not think the sentence matched the crime (given her history). It seemed, to me, like the filmmakers used Judge leniency as a plot device.
Pro: Mystery (+4pts)
While I really enjoyed the combination between horror and comedy, there was a third genre to this film: Mystery. As Kylie begins to witness strange and horrific things at her mother's house, she decides to investigate and learn what is haunting her. The film then leads to her exploring hidden areas of the house, spying on the neighbor, etc. It really starts to turn into a mystery and it is an effective one. Basically there is an event (that occurred a long time ago) that caused the haunting. Kylie is trying to get to the bottom of that in order to understand what is in her mother's house. As a viewer, it was very entertaining to follow Kylie as she discovers clues and comes to revelations.
So the film starts as a comedy, turns into a horror-comedy, then turns into a horror-comedy-mystery. Through the entire film, it does a great job of balancing these three genres. In the last twenty minutes or so, the film takes another turn (which I will get into later), but this film (for the most part) does a fantastic job of balancing it's genres and nailing a very unique tone.
Con: The Security (-3pts)
Okay, some may see this point as me being overly critical, but just bear with me while I explain. Glen-Paul Waru plays Amos, a security agent who is assigned to respond to any issues with Kylie's ankle monitor. Now I really enjoyed the character of Amos. He added plenty of comedy to the movie and provided a pretty relatable character (since the main character was kind of angry all the time). Anyway, there is a point in the movie where Kylie mentions the house being haunted, and this was my issue with the character.
Without batting an eye, Amos whips out his audio recorder and starts asking questions. Are the questions addressed to Kylie or her mother? Nope. His questions are aimed at the entity that is within the house. Again, he does this without hesitation. He then starts checking areas of the house using a detector (which I presume to be some sort of EMF). So not only is this guy a security agent who should be handling Kylie's ankle monitor, he is also a paranormal expert?
Maybe the film did this as intended comedy, and hopefully that comedy works for some viewers, but it did not work for me. I saw it as a plot device to embed this entertaining character (Amos) into Kylie's story. Did I enjoy seeing more of Amos throughout the film? Yes, but I thought his transition (from a secondary character to a main character) could have used some work.
Pro: Kylie (+10pts)
I thought Kylie was a refreshingly unique main character for a horror story. How many horror films have a generic female lead, running, and screaming from anything that goes bump in the night? This film flips that stereotype on it's head with Kylie. Kylie is angry, she is selfish, and she is violent. If something startles her, she punches it in the face (as she says in the trailer). If an inanimate object starts moving, she attacks it and throws it into the fireplace. What was so unique about this film was that is what provides a lot of the film's comedy.
We have become used to horror film's main characters running or screaming in response to anything scary. So, naturally, when something startles Kylie in this film, we expect her to run or scream. Instead we see her get violent and start beating or attacking anything that startles her. As a viewer, this is surprisingly funny to watch because it is so drastically outside our expectations. As great as the film's genre was, I think Kylie (and the performance by Morgana O'Reilly) was this film's biggest draw. Morgana O'Reilly was able to act violent, while maintaining facial expressions of shock, fear, confusion, and frustration. I think it was her performance that allowed the film's genres to blend so perfectly.
Con: The Ending (-5pts)
Like I have mentioned a few times already, one of this film's biggest strengths was it's genre. It does a great job at balancing horror, comedy, and mystery throughout the duration of the film, but it struggled at sticking the landing with a conclusion that would satisfy all genres. It maintains comedy, but when the mystery is concluded, the film turns into more of a thriller (instead of a horror). It is entertaining, but it loses one of the main draws to the film. I do not want to say too much more because I do not want to give the ending away; just know that there is a switch at the end which changes the tone and direction of the film. This may work for some audiences, but I thought it lost one of the elements that made the movie great.
Grade: B+ (87pts)
Housebound was a surprisingly entertaining movie. It is a horror-comedy-mystery and it does a fantastic job of blending these three genres. The horror comes from an unknown entity terrorizing the main character, Kylie. The mystery comes from Kylie, and Amos, trying to determine what the entity is and how it came to be. The comedy comes from a few characters, but a lot of it comes from Kylie and her reactions to the horror. This character is angry, violent, and was so much fun to watch as she would attack almost anything that startled her or creeped her out. This made the film feel very fresh, because we have become so accustomed to main characters (in a horror film) running or screaming at horrific elements.
The film has a few issues, a few of which are plot devices, but the biggest issue is the ending of the film. The end of the film, while still pretty entertaining, struggled to reach a conclusion that satisfied each genre. Again, I still enjoyed the ending, but it was unable to maintain the great genre balance that the rest of the film was able to execute. By losing one of the elements that made the film so great, the ending of this movie ended up losing a bit of steam.
This was a very entertaining movie and I encourage viewers to watch it. It does a fantastic job at balancing genres, throughout most of the film, and it has an unconventional main character who was a lot of fun to watch.