DIRECTOR Gerard Johnstone WRITER Gerard Johnstone STARS Morgana O’Reilly; Rima Te Wiata; Glen-Paul Waru SCREENING Today at 18.30, 20.35 and 23.20
Belying Gerard Johnstone’s inexperience as a filmmaker, Housebound is a remarkable first-time feature that marks the director/writer as one to keep close eye upon. Near pitch-perfect, the comedy timing is superb, as is a direction that exploits an excellent rapport between its players. And, not only is Johnstone a talented storyteller, he is also a very good editor; Housebound never skips a beat, its pacing a master exercise in suspense.
Its beauty is in its simplicity. Kylie, a sullen young woman, is placed back in her childhood home for house arrest following a bungled burglary. Ankle-tagged — “Aren’t you lucky, having all that fancy technology on your foot?” enthuses mother Miriam — Kylie is unable to leave the premises and thus, when things begin to go bump in the night, she has no choice but to confront and solve the mystery, red herrings teasing both her and the audience along the way.
The setting is inspired, providing an opportunity to weave in some family politics, the hostile daughter gradually coming to feel a begrudging respect for a mother she initially deems foolish for believing in the paranormal. It is refreshing to observe this careful attention to the underlying relationships of a story, serving as it does further propellant to the narrative, and Johnstone equally applies this principle to Kylie’s relationship with Amos, the security officer who, hilariously, just happens to be a paranormal investigator. Characterisation is often glossed over in genre pieces, however Housebound presents this in entirely believable fashion, despite its extraordinary circumstances. The script is already very strong in its deadpan humour, and excellent casting in Morgana O’Reilly (Kylie), Rima Te Wiata (Miriam) and Glen-Paul Waru (Amos) projects a dynamic that is a genuine pleasure to watch.
It is not just in its writing and direction that Housebound excels; the production design is a feast for the eyes, the rickety old house a character in its own right. Visual gags — a POV shot from within a laundry basket is a particularly amusing touch — serve as cherry on top. This is a Kiwi gem that really ought not to be missed.