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Housebound

Another excellent horror film from Down Under (more specifically New Zealand, I believe) -- the third I've seen this year from there. The other was Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, and The Babadook. Those two were excellent. So was this one.

The opening scene is a man and a woman breaking into an ATM machine. The man proves to be somewhat useless, here, as he accidentally knocks himself out with a sledgehammer. The woman, on the other hand, springs the cash and drags her mate to their escape vehicle... only to get stuck on the speed bump when the engine stalls. Cut to the courtroom, where the unsympathetic judge frowns upon the usual methods of treatment and sentences the woman to eight months of house arrest with her mother.

I believe that horror films can be serious or funny or both; this film is both. They can be transparent, or hold their cards close to their chests; this film doesn't tip its hand. I started watching it expecting a serious film about a haunted house. The early scenes seemed to confirm my suspicions. A superstitious government employee comes and hooks up cameras to film ghosts. He tries to record them. I watched and listened, waiting to see or hear a ghost.

As the movie progressed, little bits were revealed, making me change what I thought was going on, until I no longer thought it was ghosts. In their place was a far-fetched, but entirely-plausible explanation: a real killer hiding in the house. It reminded me of The Pact, in that respect. As the film turned away from fantasy it grew funnier and funnier, as well (favorite moment: where the woman fends off her attacker by grating his face with a cheese-grater).

The movie even had me convinced that the woman was imagining everything. Even as the illusion faded and all was revealed, I could never quite shake the feeling of doubt.

That's why the movie was so good. It defied expectations. Horror films are filled with tropes that lead me to think I have a movie figured out before I see it. As I watch it, I feel smug, thinking to myself that I'll be able to predict what's coming next. With this one, I'll admit that I didn't see what was coming. The film had me completely fooled, by the end.


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