The film begins with a scene that shows a botched attempted robbery of money from an ATM machine. The crime is perpetrated by the main character of the movie Kylie Bucknell, and a male accomplice, who winds up knocking himself out and is never seen again. Convincingly portrayed by Morgana O’ Reilly, Kylie is an angry, sharp tongued, young woman, who receives a sentence of eight months from the New Zealand court she’s prosecuted in. The sentence, however, is not going to be carried out in a prison. Instead, she is being sent to live under home detention in her childhood home, with her well meaning, albeit constantly chattering mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), and her polar opposite, quiet step-father, Graeme (Ross Harper).
Kylie is transported by two probation officers to the house in the town of Buford, where she grew up. The sign on the highway leading to her house proclaims that the town is the ‘Jewel of the Twin Coast Highway.’ Attaching an electronic monitoring bracelet to Kylie’s ankle is Amos (Glen-Paul Waru). At first he might appear to be a filler character, but by film’s end it will be clear that is not the case. Upon arriving home, Kylie acts very petulant. Even though she is confined, she doesn’t help her parents. For example, at least at the start of the movie, she refrains from helping to keep the place clean, eats a meatloaf that was prepared by Miriam for dinner without apologizing, and mainly smokes and watches television. When Miriam politely asks Kylie if she and Graeme can watch a program they like which comes on for an hour on Thursday and Friday evenings, Kylie’s response is non-verbal; opting to turn up the volume on what she’s watching as her reply. The court ordered meetings with her counselor, Dennis (Cameron Rhodes) serve to only further inflame her already rebellious nature.
Shortly after her arrival, Kylie is listening to a call in talk show on the radio. While doing so, she hears that her mother has called into the program being aired. Miriam informs the host of the show that she believes that she and her family are not alone in the house they live in. She points not only to the noises that she hears in the middle of the night, things moving by themselves, fluctuation in the power, but also to an incident that happened years earlier. One evening, when she went into the basement to get chicken out of the freezer, she had a feeling that she was not alone and that she was being watched. Miriam turned around and saw something disappear back into the darkness. Whatever it was, it gave her such a fright, that she didn’t go down into the basement again for two months. Kylie doesn’t believe a word her mother is speaking, chalking it up to the ramblings of a bored woman whose life lacks zest. Mother and daughter already have a contentious relationship to start with, so Miriam’s belief in ghosts does nothing to bring them closer together.
One evening she hears noise coming from downstairs. Kylie leaves her bedroom to find out where the noise is coming from, which leads her down into the basement. While down there, something happens to her – which I won’t spoil for those of you who have not yet seen the film – that makes the non-believer start to rethink the validity of her mother’s story. As it turns out, Miriam is on her way down the stairs to the basement to ask Kylie to keep the noise down, when Kylie informs her mother that she thinks that they are not alone. They both hear noises and go upstairs, where they find the front door is wide open. Immediately they hear someone walking around upstairs. Kylie asks her mother where Graeme is, but it is not him because he is at work. Whoever is in the house is coming down the stairs. Kylie grabs something to hit the person with. She strikes the person a number of times, and is about to bash something else over the guy’s head, when it is revealed that it is only Amos. Kylie wants to know what he is doing there, to which he replies that he got a signal that she had breached the perimeter of where she is allowed to go. The reason he was able to respond to the signal so quickly is that he lives in the neighborhood.
Mother, daughter and Amos go back downstairs to the basement. Once Amos learns from Miriam, that she feels that they are not alone in the house, Amos takes out his tape recorder and begins asking questions to an unseen spirit. He receives no response. The probation officer turns out to be a paranormal investigator, something he does as a hobby for free aside from his day job. He informs Miriam that he wants to set up cameras and other recording devices in the house to find out what it is that they are dealing with. That is just the beginning of the fun, which would be better for you to discover on your own while watching the movie, as opposed to me getting into more specific plot details.
“Housebound” is parts comedy, horror and thriller, and had its premier on March 10, 2014 at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The film which is 107 minutes in length was written and directed by Gerard Johnstone. From start to finish the film hooked me never once was I bored nor did I feel the need to check how much time was left before it was finished. The director makes excellent use of atmosphere as it pertains to the house. All of the characters in the film serve a purpose, and the cast as a whole does a very competent job. There are wonderful twists and turns along the way. “Housebound” is a film that will keep most viewers guessing as to what is actually transpiring until toward the end of the movie. This is a film I highly recommend.