Housebound is brilliant in that it’s never what you’re expecting it to be. A quick glance at the gloomy box art invokes thoughts of the used and abused haunted house genre, yet a closer look reveals that things aren’t thematically absolute. Brutal acts of violence and jump scares are preceded by satirical snippets of humor, making you wonder whether you should laugh or wet your pants. Complimented by an atypical (and wonderful) absence of the “damsel in distress” trope, Housebound’s composition is immaculate; by the end of the film, you’ll feel as if you’ve actually watched a different kind of horror movie.
Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is nothing but trouble. She’s chasing purple dragons, blowing up ATM machines with homemade explosives for some quick cash, and is generally unapproachable owing to her punkish attitude. Bad luck strikes when one of her robbery attempts falls flat on its ass and she winds up arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a supposedly lenient eight months of home detention, complete with an ankle monitor and a irritatingly chatty mother. The judge hoped to impose some stability on her chaotic life, but as one would expect, Kylie isn’t happy to be home, and she ensures that EVERYONE in the house is aware of this sentiment.
One uneventful evening (and there are many, presumably), Kylie hears her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) on the radio, talking about how her house is haunted. Years back, she witnessed a shadowy figure down in the basement, and the memory spooks her to this day. Kylie initially ridicules her mother for being superstitious, but then begins to experience the symptoms of the haunting firsthand. Funny enough, her corrections officer Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) happens to be a real paranormal enthusiast, and proceeds to give her a hand scoping the place for any unruly spirits. It isn’t long before they discover that they’re digging up something worse than a few spooky ghosts.
I won’t spoil the twists and turns for you, but I will tell you that there are a solid few. Twists that involve sociopathic behavior, the revelation of deeply buried secrets, and the possibility of murder. Who knows which order those’re in, eh? You’ll have to find out yourself.
Mike D’Angelo believes that Kylie’s house arrest needed to be a much more pivotal point of the film, but I’m inclined to think that the genius is more evenly dispersed. The spunky, aggressive protagonist and interspersed satirical humor are reason enough to like Housebound; the layered plot and slow-but-steady revelation of the real antagonist is reason to love it. Still, my sense of humor might not be in line with everyone else’s, so you should check out the A.V. Club review right through here.