With horror-comedy, sometimes the kitchen sink method just works. If you rely too heavily on one aspect over the other, it either stops being scary and is even less funny. When it does work, it’s a fantastic concoction. While most would hold the likes of Scream as the best of the bunch, they probably haven’t seen Peter Jackson’s early works: Dead Alive and Bad Taste. Most recently, we’ve been treated to the likes of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, The Cabin in the Woods, and You’re Next. The one thing these films need to be is a wild ride, and writer/director Gerard Johnstone’s debut Housebound (now available on Blu-ray exclusively on Amazon.com from XLrator Media) finds just the right balance across the board.
Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is having a bad night. While attempting to rob an ATM, her cohort has knocked himself unconscious, and she winds up high centering the getaway car. Sentenced to eight-months of house arrest, Kylie is sent to live with her overbearing mum Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and step-father Graeme (Ross Harper). Straddled with an ankle monitor, Kylie quickly learns that Miriam thinks her house is haunted after overhearing her call in to a paranormal radio show. It’s not soon after that Kylie begins to also hear bumps in the night, and she may have more to fear than land lines and dial-up internet.
If there’s one thing holding back XLrator’s transfer, it’s their continuing use of 25GB discs. If their films had more space to breathe, they’d have some technically flawless transfers on their hands. As it stands, Housebound winds up with the single anomaly of banding creeping in and in the oddest place you’d imagine: a bathroom ceiling. Thankfully, blacks are inky when necessary but leave plenty of shadow delineation with no crush whatsoever. Skin tones on the yellow side, but seems to be a post-production color correction because whenever blood finally spurts – or police car lights flash – they really pop, and never, well, bleed. And detail is excellent throughout, helping add extra creepiness to the house.
As for the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, dialogue may be a little on the muddled side, but it’s never overwhelmed by music or sound effects. Something that comes in handy as there are plenty of verbal gags to along with the atmospherics. Directionality is precise with each creak and groan right where it would be as if you were the characters onscreen. Bass also makes for some fun jump moments and English subtitles are available.
The special features may be on the slim side, but do add plenty of behind the scenes and lots of spoilers. The “Commentary By the Filmmakers” consists of director Johnstone, producer Luke Sharpe, and executive producer Ant Timson. Offering up a rowdy and rambunctious affair, they offer lots of tidbits about the whole process. A collection of “Deleted Scenes” (3:59) include on-screen explanations as to their being cut and include “2nd Dinner Table Scene,” “Peanut Butter,” and “Stairwell Argument.”
Housebound finds fantastic ways to spoof the standard haunted house film while finding new ground. And just when you think you have it all figured out, director Johnstone throws another curveball at the audience. O’Reilly gets a lot of mileage out of simple facial expressions as she becomes more bewildered with the circumstance, ghostbusting security expert Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) gets plenty of hilarious one-liners, and Miriam puts her deadpan delivery to brilliant use. While the ending seems to keep going and going, don’t worry, it all winds up fitting together perfectly by the time the credits roll. There’s a nice mystery abound and Housebound is a hilarious goosebump-inducing funhouse of a film.
Picture courtesy XLrator Media