Housebound (2014) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The new episode of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw video series looks back at Gerard Johnstone’s 2014 film Housebound

The episode of Best Horror Movie You Never Saw covering Housebound was Written by Eric Walkuski, Narrated by Jason Hewlett, Edited by Paul Bookstaber, Produced by John Fallon and Tyler Nichols, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

In January of 2023, cinemas were invaded by M3GAN, a horror-comedy about a feisty, and murderous, android companion that brought a fun new spin to the killer doll genre. While the film was a surprise hit at the box office, it had been in development for quite a while, dating back to the pre-pandemic days of 2018. Intriguingly, its director, Gerard Johnstone, had only one feature film under his belt up until that point. That feature was Housebound (watch it HERE), a twisty, humorous thriller that deftly combined chills with laughs. M3GAN producers James Wan and Jason Blum were both thoroughly impressed by the tightrope the movie walked, and found Johnstone was perhaps the only man for the job of bringing the bonkers M3GAN concept to life. Turns out their faith in him was rewarded, as the dancing dolly racked up over $170 million at the worldwide box office, earning her a sequel almost immediately.

But we’re here to look back at the project that made M3GAN possible, Johnstone’s funny freakout Housebound, one of the Best Horror Movies You Never Saw…

Obviously, we’re going to be spoiling some of Housebound’s bigger plot twists, so do be advised that you should best watch it first then come back here to enjoy us lavish praise upon the flick, which starts off with a truly frightening scenario: moving back in with your mother and step-father. That’s the fate that has befallen Kylie Bucknell, a 20-something delinquent who finds herself under house arrest after a ludicrously failed attempt at ATM theft. Kylie is a sullen, surly young lady with a chip on her shoulder the size of Auckland. Her mum Miriam is a well-meaning sort, if not a little excitable, and step-dad Graeme is almost as hard-to-read as she is. Safe to say, this will be no stay-at-home vacation, but rather a true endurance test – Kylie very well may have preferred prison to the creaky confines of her childhood home.

However, it’s not just going to be endless days on the couch watching meaningless telly for Kylie. Miriam has a rather unfortunate surprise for her daughter: the house is currently haunted. In fact, it may always have been haunted, as when she was young Kylie was convinced herself that she saw apparitions, memories she’s since blocked out.

Of course, there are the usual mysterious disturbances in the middle of the night; creaks and house-sounds, the so-called haunting presenting itself slowly but surely. It takes a lot to convince a cynic like Kylie, who’s more apt to believe her mother is equal parts bored and superstitious than take any of this nonsense seriously. Ah, but It isn’t long before it becomes clear to Kylie that something is indeed afoot in the old homestead – getting grabbed on the leg by an unseen intruder will have that effect, as will having a creepy animatronic bear placed in the shower with you. Gotta think that guy’s related to M3GAN in some way?

Pretty soon the evidence is impossible to ignore. But is it an unhappy spirit, or something even more sinister? Is it even something to be feared at all? With the help of an eager amateur ghost-hunter – who is also conveniently the guy who makes sure she doesn’t try to skip town – Kylie and Miriam endeavor to get to the bottom of just what’s happening within that house. And when we say “within that house,” we mean it.

Housebound Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

While watching Housebound, it’s easy to see why producers like James Wan and Jason Blum – and even that legendary Kiwi Peter Jackson – were impressed with Johnstone’s work and pictured big things for him. Balancing comedy and horror is never for the faint of heart, and Gerard does an expert job of crafting a thriller that’s both creepy and amusing. Sometimes it’s even downright quaint. You might get an Amblin’ vibe from the flick, as it certainly calls to mind those special Spielberg-produced thrill-rides from the 80s that seamlessly blend spooky subject matter with enthusiastic humor and heart. As a writer he presents us with a great premise: what if you literally couldn’t leave your haunted home because you’d be breaking the law, and as a director he proves he’s got a gift for visual storytelling with a steady supply of interesting camera movements and angles. Housebound is never boring to look at, and the cinematography and production design teams deserve kudos for delivering such an appealing-looking movie, considering it rarely ever leaves the confines of the house. The influence of gothic horror movies of the past is frequently obvious, as shadows lurk everywhere and dark corridors present themselves with startling regularity.

Especially noteworthy is that, despite some grim subject matter at the core of the plot, Housebound is rather lighthearted and easy to watch, one of those horror movies that will appeal to aficionados as well as people who don’t normally enjoy the genre. That’s not to say it’s toothless – indeed, there are, uh, lots of teeth flying around this film. You don’t normally see dentures being used as a major plot point in a horror movie, but that’s just how Johnstone rolls. But admirably, there’s very little gore or violence in this movie – well, okay there are a few stabbings here and there and maybe a mauled face – but the major bloodletting comes courtesy of an exploding head at the end that has to be seen to be believed. What a show stopping moment that is.

Johnstone makes some risky choices early on, most of them regarding our main character. What’s rather nifty here is that Kylie is anything but a likable protagonist in the early going. Sour-pussed and ungrateful, she’s still acting like an angsty teenager even though she’s well into her 20s, and before long she’s all but taken over the house and treating her mother and step-dad like unwanted roommates. Johnstone of course does this purposely, giving Kylie a tough, unflappable veneer so that when things really start going bump in the night, her defenses are broken down and she gradually grows into a character you care about. And if she’s scared, you know things are going downhill. It doesn’t hurt that Morgana O’Reilly is really just perfect in the role, imbuing Kylie with a snarky sense-of-humor and a give-no-shits attitude that will be like catnip if you’re into ladies who look like they can kick your ass. I know I am… Like plenty of notable actors before her, Morgana cut her teeth on the Australian soap opera Neighbours, but even if you’re familiar with that series you’ll have no trouble associating her with this role right from the get-go, so effortlessly does she make Kylie her own.

But the whole cast is uniformly excellent. Rima Te Wiata is completely lovable as the put-upon mum; she hits all the right notes and will hopefully have you reaching for the phone to call your own mom in no time – provided you don’t already live with her. Glen-Paul Waru provides solid comic relief as a security officer who just so happens to be a big believer in the supernatural, and his addition to the increasingly weird proceedings is very welcome – especially for those who enjoy a little amateur ghost-hunting on the side. The moment where it’s revealed a presumably skeptical Amos is actually all-in on this haunted house stuff is a priceless one.

And very special notice must be given to Cameron Rhodes, who plays Kylie’s gentle therapist, Dennis. Initially what seems like a minor supporting character becomes much more intriguing as the movie enters its third act, and let’s just say Rhodes has a helluva time going over-the-top when we discover Dennis has some skeletons of his own in the closet.

Then there’s the other major member of the cast, the elephant in the room – or the man in the walls, if you prefer. Here comes a spoiler. It’s ultimately revealed that there is no ghost in the mix, nor is it a frightful intruder intent on making life hell for the Bucknells. No, it’s just a poor soul named Eugene, a former mental patient, traumatized by a murder from the past and relegated to years of solitary confinement within the walls of the Bucknell house. Eugene ends up being a very sweet character, in his own unglamorous way, and he certainly ends up being useful to his hosts in when their backs are literally up against the wall. Putting an extra charming capper on the film, we learn that Eugene will continue to live with the Bucknells as a most unusual house guest, and while I don’t know if I personally would feel comfortable with such an odd living arrangement, it does the heart good to know Eugene and his surrogate family will go on looking after each other, though one has to assume drawing Kylie while she’s in the bathtub is no longer permitted.

Housebound Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

If there’s a complaint to be lodged against Housebound, it’s that might be just a tad on the long side, with the second half devoting a lot of time to exposition and red herrings. A hundred and ten minutes is a touch lengthy for a horror-comedy, but honestly this is a minor gripe, as Johnstone keeps things moving with characters we’re genuinely invested in entering suspenseful, sometimes harrowing situations. He manages to pepper the film with several stand-out sequences; let’s put it this way, whenever Kylie goes about exploring on her own, you’re guaranteed an exciting experience.

It may be slightly controversial to say, but Housebound belongs in the same conversation as other great horror-comedies of the 21st century, alongside titles like Shaun of the Dead and What We Do in the Shadows. It may not have made quite the cultural impact as those movies, but it’s just about as much of a pleasure to behold. An unorthodox story well told by a very talented filmmaker, here’s hoping Housebound’s profile continues to rise in the film community, especially in the wake of M3GAN fever. Heck, maybe Housebound will get a sequel of its own one day; would be plenty interesting to see what’s been going on in that house after all this time…

A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.