Every horror movie I’ve seen from New Zealand has been a comedy. What We Do in the Shadows, Deathgasm and every Peter Jackson movie from 1987 to 1996. What’s so damn funny down there? Maybe it’s because New Zealand is so beautiful. Everyone’s content. Unlike New Zealand’s cranky brother Australia with all his desolate wastelands and giant spiders. New Zealand comes off as a quirky slice of paradise. Whether or not that’s how it is that’s the vibe I get and it’s nothing but good vibes when watching today’s Kiwi ghost story.
Housebound opens with a thrilling robbery. Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) a young woman attempts to rob an ATM machine with her bumbling partner in crime, which is a total mess. Her partner knocks himself out, a deafening alarm goes off, and worst of all Kylie’s car won’t start when she tries to make her getaway. She’s tried in court and due to her lack of progress with rehabilitation centers in the past is sentenced to live eight months under house arrest with her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata from Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and stepfather Graeme (Ross Harper).
This is a great premise. How often do you find yourself watching a haunted house movie and ask, “Why don’t they leave?” What better way to keep your story contained than with the threat of jail time? It’s perfect. It’s made even better by Morgana O’Reilly’s performance as the snotty and ungrateful Kylie. She really has no interest in ghosts (initially) but what other choice does she have than to investigate after the strange occurrences from inside?
The film is very much a mystery. Kylie digs through old books and pictures and does research on her Mom’s painfully slow dial-up internet. Before I go any further I can’t ignore Rima Te Wiata as Kylie’s mom Miriam. Much like her role as the adoptive mother of Ricky Baker in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Wiata is doting, sweet and hilarious. The additional supporting cast is equally charming including Glen-Paul Waru as Amos a security contractor in charge of Kylie’s monitor who also has an interest in the supernatural and Cameron Rhodes as Dennis a clinical psychiatrist Kylie can’t stand.
I once heard one way to judge the strength of a horror movie is to take away all supernatural/scary elements and then see if the movie would still be interesting. Housebound would pass that test with flying colors. The character dynamics could make this a great sitcom. I only wish the horror elements were as compelling. Though this is a fun film, overlooked far too often. Come on America. Give the Kiwi’s a chance. I promise they’ll make you laugh.