‘Housebound’ Brings Laughs, Chills in Equal Measure

Comedy is hard. Horror isn’t much easier.

Combining the two is asking for trouble. There’s a reason “An American Werewolf in London” still matters 30-odd years later while most horror-comedies are quicky forgotten.

Here’s betting Chevy Chase would kill to remove “Nothing But Trouble” from his IMDB page.

Housebound,” a Kiwi shocker, makes genre mashing look easy. The scares never deflate the gags, and the laughter can’t pierce the unease lurking in this dysfunctional home.


A drug-addled thief named Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) bungles an ATM robbery and is ordered some cruel and unusual punishment. She must spend the next nine months at home with her mother (Rima Te Wiata) and step dad (Ross Harper). Kylie’s mother has no idea how to cope with her wild child, and the daughter shows little interest in making nice.

That’s the least of their problems. Momma admits to a local radio show host her house is haunted, and soon Kylie can’t help but reach the same conclusion.

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Enter Kylie’s probation office (Glen-Paul Waru) who dabbles in paranormal noodling on the side, and you’ve got the makings of a pedestrian haunted house film.

“Housebound” is so much more than that.

Yes, you’ll laugh – often – at the droll delivery and silly sight gags. The story itself keeps twisting and turning, with every shift yielding a new batch of thrills. They don’t all add up, but the presentation is so well manicured it’s hard to raise a fuss.

FAST FACT: Hollywood pounced on the film, setting the stage for an American remake. Those plans kicked in three years ago, but there’s been little news on the remake since then.

O’Reilly, wearing a permanent scowl, would be easy to hate if the actress didn’t sprinkle in a heady sense of empathy for Kylie’s plight. There’s something bittersweet about her forced return to her roots, and any horror movie which allows the main character to pull on a pair of tap shoes deserves our respect.

Yes, that really happens.

“Housebound” works on an elemental mother-daughter level, but it’s first and foremost a rigorously scripted horror movie. Director Gerard Johnstone shows such a firm grasp of the material you’ll have to squint to see a misstep.

The laughs beat a hasty retreat deep into the story, but they come roaring back during the film’s rollicking third act.

The best horror-comedies become cult classics. If “Housebound” never reaches that place in pop culture it’s only due to a lack of marketing.

 DID YOU KNOW: Director Gerard Johnstone dreamed of being a stunt man, but a bad back and his above-average height stopped those ambitions cold.

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