Delinquent serial-offender Kylie is sentenced to nine month's house arrest at her family home in a small town on New Zealand's Twin Coast Highway, forcing her to move back in after many years with her slightly loopy mother, who we learn has long been convinced that the house is haunted. Initially more than a little sceptical, Kylie soon begins to experience unexplained phenomena herself, and before long local security contractor/probation officer Amos (who is principally responsible for ensuring Kylie doesn't leave the premises) offers his services as an amateur paranormal investigator.
Part ghost story, part murder mystery, it would be counter- productive to know any more about the plot before viewing, as various revelations and red herrings keep the mystery quotient high. There are also underlying themes relating to family and loss that lend the film a welcome human dimension.
One slight negative is that the many twists and turns stretch out the runtime beyond the ideal for this sort of film, and there are times when it starts to drag. Also one particular character is presented in a manner that pushes the film firmly into farce territory; one of a couple of aspects that could have been executed slightly more believably, as absurd as that sounds in relation to a film of this type.
The performances are all top notch; Morgana O'Reilly has great fun with Kylie's mardy persona, Glen-Paul Waru is perfect as likable doofus Amos and Rima Te Wiata excels as Kylie's dotty but ultimately caring mother. Refreshingly, the main characters all develop convincingly over the course of the film, which is far from a given when it comes to horrors, comedies and indeed horror-comedies. You'd have to be pretty hard-hearted not to care about them by the end.
Horror-comedies are difficult to pull off, and it's rare that a film strikes a genuine balance without ending up as a full-on horror with a darkly comic edge, or an out-and-out comedy with horror themes, but Housebound gets very close to doing so. At time it leans more towards comedy and farce, and the tone is often light-hearted, but there are enough moments of tension – and violence – to ensure that there are plenty of thrills among the laughs.