I've started way too many reviews this year talking about how many good to great genre movies we've had. Maybe it's getting old to some of you, but it's worth pointing out again; while I'm not sure mainstream Hollywood has produced a ton of great movies (though there have been a lot of very good ones), independent genre filmmakers have been crushing it in 2014. If you're tired of me beating that particular drum, you must at least recognize that it's a good problem to have. We should be so lucky.
Housebound, the debut feature from New Zealand filmmaker Gerard Johnstone, is another film to be added to that list. It's confidently directed, deadpan funny, features great characters and is filled with unexpected shifts and turns. As horror comedies go, it's one of the best I've seen in years.
Besides being one of the most energetic and positively fun horror films I've seen in quite some time, Housebound works because it's about more than just combining deadpan laughs with spooky stuff. At its core, it is a film about Going Home Again (Thomas Wolfe be damned). Watching Kylie soften as she reconnects with both her past and her mother gives the movie an essential sweetness that's rare for the genre. We tend to go to horror films to watch characters suffer (whether we want them to or not), so it's a wonderful and welcome change of pace when we get one that loves its characters as much as this movie does.
Attack the Block in that we love her because of her rough edges, not in spite of them. It's also a movie that knows how to get better as it goes along. There are any number of movies that could be cited as influences or inspirations, from The People Under the Stairs to Shaun of the Dead (only in the way it combines horror with formalist comedy) to the work of fellow Kiwi Peter Jackson. While Housebound never even attempts the kind of splatstick humor that made Jackson a hero among the horror crowd, there is at least one gore gag that had me laughing out loud for several minutes. I wouldn't dream of giving it away, but it's inspired.
I loved Housebound. It's the kind of horror movie I know I'm going to come back to year after year, not even waiting for #ScaryMovieMonth to roll around to revisit it, to spend time with Kylie and her mom and her almost entirely silent stepdad and the ghost that may or may not haunt their home. So many horror movies are designed to upset us, to unsettle us, to leave us feeling bad about the world. Housebound just left me smiling, thinking to myself "I can't wait to see that again."