Horror comedies have always been an underrated genre in the film industry, so it should come as no surprise that Gerard Johnstone’s directorial debut Housebound tanked at the box office with mixed critical reviews.
Structured as a coming-of-age film, the the New Zealand horror-comedy follows Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly), a troublesome delinquent who must learn to accept responsibility after attempting to rob an ATM. Kylie’s don’t-care attitude and inability to listen to others sets her up to be an anti-hero, forced to remain in her mother Miriam’s (Rima Te Wiata) house for eight months. A deadpan comedy, the plot documents Kylie’s progression from useless delinquent to hero-with-an-attitude-problem.
Drawing inspiration from the postmodern genre, Johnstone uses a linear cinematic sequence without a solid introduction to characters, storyline and concepts, which the audience is expected to work out for themselves. Housebound uses the concept of the supernatural as an enabling tool for the rest of the narrative to progress. In other words, the narrative functions through the concept of a “haunted house”, despite the house not being haunted, but instead overrun by psychotic neighbours and a murderer.
The film attempts to create a Scary Movie-esque storyline; unlike its predecessors, however, it is unoriginal and has no credibility, encapsulated through a lack of chemistry between all characters. What’s worse is that O’Reilly and Te Wiata are excellent actors, but poor character development prevents the audience from identifying or connecting with the protagonists. Furthermore, the lack of connection presents minor characters as a plot hole, neither explained nor directly linked to the main characters.
What it lacks in character should not discourage audiences from watching it, however, if only for Kylie’s brilliant one-liners as she swears throughout the film. Possibly the only multidimensional figure, Kylie is unfazed by the supernatural, and it is this that makes her such a great character. Kylie makes the film passable, and her vitality and spark add some much-needed energy to the film’s production.
Housebound is an abnormality, lacking originality, ambition and credibility, and is arguably forgettable. Johnstone relies on grotesque humour, where pain equals laughter. This, however, is invalid: stabbings, murder and torture are few and far between in this film. When gore and bloodshed do feature, they are random and often arbitrary.
Ana de Jesus
Housebound is released nationwide on 3rd July 2015.
Watch the trailer for Housebound here: