The 9th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival opened last evening with a sell-out crowd on hand for the screening of Housebound, a New Zealand horror film that takes on the tried-and-tested genre device of the haunted house.
Morgana O’Reilly plays Kylie Bucknell, a troubled young woman who is sentenced by the local courts to home detention after a failed ATM robbery and is ordered to house arrest under the care of her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata). Miriam is a bit of a nutbag who is convinced that their home is haunted. The rebellious Kylie is less than convinced. That is until she begins to see and hear strange things around the house that prompt Kylie’s inner-Nancy Drew as a murder mystery slowly unfolds.
Housebound is a thriller comedy that focuses more on the comedy than it does the intensity. Rima Te Waita’s Miriam gets most of the laughs as a mild-mannered everyday mom that channels thoughts of Edith Bunker as she stumbles through the events of the film. Security officer and self-anointed ghost hunter Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) also assists in the deliberate tickling of the audience’s funny bone as he teams with Kylie for an unlikely duo that were a Scooby snack eating dog away from being the New Zealand Mystery Inc.
Writer/director Gerard Johnstone makes his feature film debut with Housebound and proves he can deliver the goods on a multiple genre platform to please most audiences.
Housebound may be a bit uneven as it switched from ghost story to violent cat-and-mouse murder solving, but it has just enough of everything to ensure that audiences are provided with valued entertainment. We may not have truly appreciated the plot veering into People Under the Stairs direction, but Johnstone keeps everything from falling under the weight of the ridiculousness of the events and the Toronto After Dark Film Festival crowd laughed and cheered in all the right places.