Housebound, a 2014 New Zealand horror/comedy, is another one of those delightful surprises you might come across, say, when you’re scrolling through Netflix on a rainy evening, looking for something spooky. That’s sort of what happened to me and a friend I’d invited over for dinner and a scary movie; we didn’t have anything specific in mind, but after one false start (a found-footage movie called Daylight, available on iTunes, which ended up being a BIG pass), we discovered this weird, creepy, funny film. Housebound stars Morgana O’Reilly as Kylie, an angry, trouble-making young woman who gets busted after smashing an ATM with a sledgehammer then immediately wrecking her car. She’s sentenced to house arrest — which turns out to be an ingenious set-up for a horror movie. Like horror films set in extremely cold environments (The Thing, The Shining), Housebound derives a lot of its tension from the idea that no matter how bad things get, its protagonist can’t escape.
A lot weighs on that protagonist, and watching O’Reilly, I was excited to discover another strong horror heroine (or, as The Mary Sue prefers it, a Nuanced Female Character — a description I can get behind). It made me reflect that, actually, we’ve seen a lot of great, nuanced ladies at the helm of horror movies lately. Jennifer from Jennifer’s Body is the baddie, but she’s also complex, and the protagonist, Needy, is just as complicated. Jay from It Follows, Amelia from The Babadook, both Edith and Lucille from Crimson Peak — we’re living in an era when horror movies give us complicated, flawed, smart women as both heroes and villains, and I’m frankly loving it.
I’m not saying a whole lot about Housebound’s plot, in part because I hope you’ll seek it out, and I don’t want to give the plot away. I will say that the film cleverly plays with the way a house can be both a home and a prison, and the paranoia you can feel when you’re the only one at home (or think you are). It’s a horror comedy that actually manages to be both scary and funny — and satisfyingly gory.
I’m also hoping you’ll check out this version of the film because I just read that it’s being remade. The good news is, Peter Jackson is attached to the remake. But my question is: Why remake this at all? (I know the answer is because everything gets remade, even Poltergeist.) A remake will probably cast some better-known American actress in the main role and maybe amp up the gore factor, I guess. But half of the joy of the original is meeting new, unfamiliar faces in both the lead and the supporting roles.
- I'm a big fan of this film, though I do agree with some of what the AV Club's Mike D'Angelo has to say about the film's final act. (D'Angelo is a little harsh in my opinion, but the last part of the film could be a little tighter.)