Housebound ★★★½

Stevil Intentions – The 2010s Horror Month

I've got a confession to make.

This project was going so badly that I basically just started picking the ones that I actually really wanted to watch rather than leaving it to which, if it had its way, would have made me watch Regression again or something. It was the only way that I felt I was going to get some much needed HITS out of this one.

To be honest, I think my suspicions have been pretty good so far. Black Swan and It Follows were both bangers. The Final Girls, which I'm reviewing later, if I can be arsed, was also great stuff. In the middle of it all, New Zealand once again proves to be an absolute master of horror comedy with Housebound.

What is it about that place that sees it have such a mastery of this sub-genre? It really is one of the most baffling pieces of movie miscellany, but every single time they have a go, they seem to get it spot on. I'd urge them to make more but you can have too much of a good thing, can't you? So yeah, I've been pretty pleased with my choices since I decided to assume some semblance of responsibility in my life and actually choose some films to watch myself.

But, whether the films have been good or bad, there has been a common theme running through this project (and it runs through The Final Girls too) of incredibly strong female lead performances. Here you have the relatively unheralded Morgana O'Reilly absolutely nailing a role which, perhaps due to some of Housebound's deficiencies, requires her to show a pretty diverse range, by all accounts.

Her transformation from sulky jailbird and doubting Thomas into seeing a way out of her drudgery to investigate ghosts and crimes in her home is so well done that I'll find it amazing if she doesn't enjoy a very decent career in films from here on in. As I say though, Housebound does have some problems, I think perhaps because Gerard Johnstone tries to do a bit too much with the film.

There's just too much plot here. I don't think there would have been anything wrong with just setting up Housebound as a horror comedy or mystery thriller, but combining them both leads to a film that probably ends up being about 15 minutes too long and stringing out a whodunnit plotline that gets in the way of some of the laughs. It just ends up muddled in places, but not so much that it stops it from being splendid fun for the most part.

As is often the case with me, the smaller moments really made their mark. O'Reilly having "FUCK OFF" written on the light switch in her bedroom, stopping having a slash so she can hear what's going on (I've had to do this numerous times but usually to hear if my children are murdering each other), and the on-running gag about police being overly fussy with police reports - these are all quality moments and there are many more too.

It does inevitably make a dart for the sentimental towards the end, but it's actually so well done that it didn't feel mawkish at all - perhaps helped by not having O'Reilly blubbering away as might normally be the case in circumstances like this. A couple of hilarious fight scenes combined with a healthy dash of comic gore, not to mention a wonderful performance by Rima Te Wiata as O'Reilly's cheerful mum, pad the film out nicely.

With a bit of trimming, Housebound could have been slightly wonderful but as it is it's still a splendid use of your time.

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