Sunday, 19 October 2014

Housebound


With the addition of Housebound, I've now seen exactly three-and-a-half New Zealander horror movies (Dead Alive and Black Sheep count as one each, The Frighteners as .5).

After being charged with robbery, Kylie is placed under house arrest and must return home to live with her estranged mother and stepfather. It's a horrible fate for Kylie, made worse by the possibility that the house may be haunted. With nothing better to do, she launches an investigation which only causes further agony for her and her family.

I remember seeing the trailer for Housebound some months ago. I thought it looked good but I was frustrated by something: to me it seemed like whoever cut the trailer didn't know it was supposed to be a comedy. It was the music that did it—too loud and too serious. When the movie began I was again struck by the same feeling of dissonance. It got me worried. Would the whole movie be slightly “off” to me?

Nope.

I'm not sure what happened. Possibly, I pulled my head out of my ass and accepted the director's vision. Normally, black comedies and horror comedies offset the dark subject matter through look and feel. Comedies tend to be bright and noisy, and horror comedies follow this aesthetic. Housebound doesn't always adhere to this “rule,” so I initially had a hard time connecting with the film. And then I got over it and gave over to a movie that proved to be funny and surprising in the best way. It's also gross, upsetting, and gut-wrenching.

Although the movie is full of surprises, it's also a bit predictable. Normally, I'd find fault with predictability, but not here. Knowing what was going to happen didn't lessen the impact of some scenes or diminish my enjoyment of the film overall. Rather, because the story is engaging and the characters are likeable, I was worried for their well being and upset by the outcome of certain (predictable) events.

It's hard to discuss Housebound without ruining what it is that makes the movie so great. Suffice it to say, the mystery that surrounds the haunting is less straightforward than is usually the case with these kinds of films. Housebound isn't just a haunted house movie, it's a family drama, a murder mystery, and a cautionary tale couched within a haunted house movie.

Housebound opened this year's Toronto After Dark Film Festival, setting a high bar for all the films to follow. The film was introduced by TAD's founder, Adam Lopez, who explained to the audience how all the festival programmers unanimously agreed on Housebound, something that almost never happens when trying to decide on which films to screen. Echoing the programmers' enthusiasm for Housebound, distributors were also looking to bring the movie to a wider audience—a deal that almost killed TAD's chances of screening it.

It all worked out in the end, as does the story in the film. It's refreshing to watch a movie that finishes well, that has the ending it deserves. And in much the same way that Kylie enjoys a feeling of closure and accomplishment, so do I in knowing that Housebound will reach a wider audience.