Housebound

follows an often shaky local tradition of up-and-coming Kiwi directors making horror movies as their feature debuts.

Fortunately, director Gerard Johnstone is already a seasoned pro in many areas. He directed an wrote The Jacquie Brown Diaries, possibly the last decent satire we'll ever see on local television, as well as giving the makers of Seven Sharp a kind of staff manual.

Still, it's quite a leap from in-joke media mockery to making a haunted house movie that people will pay good money for.

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Leap accomplished, with seeming ease. Housebound may have occasional outbursts of splat-stick involving nasty weaponry such as a clothes rack and a cheese grater, but it's also our best big-screen comedy in years.

Mainly because the laughs are neatly grounded in character, whether it's Morgana O'Reilly's surly Kylie Bucknell, the troubled young crim given home detention for her latest escapade, Rima Te Wiata as her chatterbox mum Miriam, or Glen-Paul Waru as Amos the security guard, charged with monitoring Kylie's ankle bracelet who turns expert neighbourhood ghostbuster.

Yes, there's enough creepiness, gore and sheer boo-factor for it to pass muster as a horror-flick. But it's the sort of horror movie you don't have to like horror movies to like.

True, if you chuck some dubbing or subtitles on it it could be one of those grimly funny Spanish horrors of recent times; wind it back a couple of decades, change the accents and it could be an early Sam Raimi.

But Housebound is quite wonderfully, hilariously New Zild. Right from the moment Miriam pipes up about her errant daughter's monitoring device: "Aren't you lucky Kylie, having all that technology on your foot. You're quite spoiled."

Watch: Trailer for Housebound

Watch the trailer for the critically acclaimed New Zealand feature, Housebound, written and directed by Gerard Johnstone. Staring Morgana O'Reilly and Rima Te Wiata.

Opens in New Zealand cinemas on September 4. Click here for more information.

Te Wiata, once upon a time an absolute small-screen hoot, is an even bigger one unleashed on the big screen here.

But the film belongs to O'Reilly, who manages to make reprobate Kylie a horror heroine worth rooting for, her sociopathic tendencies standing her in good stead once it's apparent that whatever is going bump in the night has a history and has to be dealt to more strongly than Amos' efforts as a paranormal investigator.

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To give away more would, well, give it away. And while the movie falls back on some familiar horror tropes, this low-budget effort looks like millions was spent on it.

Even better, its sound - both the robust soundtrack by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper and the sound design - induce a tension and a chill to the air in the Bucknell family home.

It's atmosphere you could cut with a knife, or at least grate into parmesan-like bits of spooky ambience. Definitely worth getting out of the house to see.


Cast: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Cameron Rhodes
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Rating: R13 (violence, horror scenes and offensive language)
Running time: 109 mins
Verdict: Our best horror-comedy in ages

- TimeOut