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Housebound

Year: 2014
Production Co: Semi Professional
Director: Housebound
Writer: Housebound
Cast: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Ross Harper

First of all, I knew I knew the actress who played Miriam, mother of heroine Kylie – she was Janice, the prim and proper young woman who used to live in the guesthouse a hundred years ago on Sons and Daughters.

Rima Te Wiata is a very strong presence in the movie. Everything around her is styled like a dark mystery horror thriller, but she's the same element that made Eagle vs Shark and The Castle so funny – a quality only Aussies and Kiwis will recognise as the eternally loving and lovable but slight daggy figure, the kind portrayed so brilliantly in old shows like Kingswood Country.

The movie starts by introducing us to Kylie, a sour, moody young woman busted for yet another crime gone wrong and sentenced to house arrest where her kindly mum Miriam (Te Wiata) and her mum's just as ineffectual partner Graeme (Ross Harper) try to make the most of having the equivalent of an antisocial teenager in the house again.

Miriam wants Kylie to make the most of it too, but all she wants to do is sleep all day, stay up all night watching bad movies and make a mess. The only fly in the ointment is the strange noises in Miriam's old country house in the middle of the night.

Miriam herself – as we learn through a phone call to talk radio that Kylie overhears – believes that the house has always been haunted, and Kylie is even more horrified to learn that her mum's a crackpot on top of everything else.

Another crackpot turns out to be Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the corrections officer who comes to check on Kylie's restrictive ankle bracelet. When Miriam lets slip the house's history of ghostly happenings, Amos – an amateur ghost hunter – leaps into action taking readings and measurements and promising the family he'll get to the bottom of it.

As the phenomena grow scarier and Kylie finds herself drawn into a tentative alliance with Amos, they uncover the truth that the house used to be a halfway home for troubled foster kids, and that one of them was brutally murdered there.

Convinced the dead girl is the one trying to make contact and certain the feral man who lives next door is the murderer, Kylie and Amos play detective to try to get to the bottom of the mystery and free the girls' spirit.

What's actually going on is both inventive and a little bit disappointing when it's finally revealed, going in such a strange new direction it almost sends the whole film off the rails.

But until then it's been a very neat little thriller with some effective performances that suit and even slightly elevate the genre, and you'll have a good time.

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