|Being the tender tale|
of a mother-daughter,
an amiable paranormal
investigator, a creepy Teddy
and a creepier social worker.
One right Royal Kiwi
Dir. Gerard Johnstone
Starring: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Cameron Rhodes, Ross Harper, Mick Innes, Millen Baird
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is a nasty piece of work. Since leaving home, the chunky, unkempt, greasy, tattooed and criminally-minded lassie has been through the revolving doors of Kiwi drug rehab clinics and courtrooms more times than she can remember. A not-unsympathetic judge working for Her Majesty's Crown in New Zealand has all the facts at his fingertips. Her latest escapade involved smashing into an ATM for drug money.
Deciding Kylie needs some stability in her life. albeit forced, he orders her to several months under house arrest in the countryside with her dear Mum (Rima Te Wiata) in the old country homestead.
Prison might have been better since the family home was never, ever a place Kylie felt comfortable in.
With its overgrown yard, gnarly trees, scrubby woods and a creepy neighbour (Mick Innes) to boot, Mummy dearest's musty, ramshackle, pack-rat-crowded old house is chock-full of too many bad memories. It's hardly conducive to a mentally healthy recovery, especially since Kylie's forced to wear an electronic ankle bracelet which keeps her from seeking any respite from the dusty claustrophobia of her childhood home. Adding insult to injury is the incessant nattering of her Mum and regular visits from a smarmy court-appointed slime-bucket councillor (Cameron Rhodes). Her only friend turns out to be an unlikely one, the beefy, amiable security dude Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), hired by the corrections department to monitor her incarceration.
Worst of all, it appears the house is haunted.
Luckily for Kylie, Amos is an amateur paranormal investigator and the two team up to solve the mystery of odd noises and goings-on. Needless to say, there's a whole lot more than meets the eye. Think of Housebound as an extreme kitchen sink melodrama (so popular in the UK during the 60s), that's infused with loads of black comedy, more red herrings than you can shake a stick at, plenty of muted whisperings, things going bump in the night, a surfeit of shock cuts and eventually, a few gallons of bloodletting.
Debut helmer and chief scribe Gerard Johnson, keeps the atmosphere thick with suspense and punctuates the numerous shocks with big laughs. If there's a problem it's that Johnson's script is too packed with red herrings and that it spins its wheels during the last third of the film. It's also a tiny bit of a letdown to discover that what seems to be, isn't, and is, in fact something else altogether.
Still and all, Housebound is an intelligent and finely wrought genre item. That its characters are vaguely plain, plain-spoken and a bit repulsive is an added bonus. If and when the movie is remade in Hollywood, it'll be scrubbed to a lily white and zapped dry of everything that makes it fresh.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-half-stars
Housebound opens January 16, 2015 at the Carlton via Raven Banner and will be available on BRD/DVD via Anchor Bay Entertainment (Canada) in very nice home editions. The Blu-Ray contains an excellent commentary with Writer/Director Gerard Johnstone and two of the film's producers. There are also deleted scenes and a trailer. It's available on XLRator in the USA. It was the Opening Night Gala at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
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