The British film Homebound marks a nice addition to the “creepy kids” subgenre of horror. These are not the stereotypical dead-eyed, Damien-in-The Omen creepy kids, though. No, they're far more realistic – troubled children with emotion-driven impulses. We can see the pain and humanity inside them. That quality gives the movie a perpetual sense of unease. Homebound had its world premiere at the 2021 Fantastic Fest.

Holly (Aisling Loftus) is traveling with new husband Richard (Tom Goodman-Hill) to the estate where his ex-wife lives. They're going to celebrate the birthday of his young daughter Anna (Raffiella Chapman). When they arrive, Richard's ex is nowhere to be found, and his teenage children, Lucia (Hattie Gotobed) and Ralph (Lukas Rolfe), are cagey about where she is. The couple ends up sticking around for a few days so the kids won't be home alone, but the tone quickly changes. Lucia and Ralph begin letting their animosity toward Holly show. Richard begins to demonstrate darker undertones, too.

Nothing more should be said about Homebound's plot. Obviously, there's something fishy going on. Director Sebastian Godwin has a firm grip on creating slow-burn suspense. The more oddities that take place, the more we want to know what's really happening, and the more he makes us wait for it. Tone and atmosphere are so important in a story of this sort. Godwin gets them just right, giving the estate an initial vibe that's welcoming, then slowly peeling away layers to make it feel like a place with a secret. Similarly, he has Lucia and Ralph go from seeming like moody teens to suggesting emotional damage inside.

We see everything through Holly's eyes, and thanks to Aisling Loftus's excellent performance, the growing terror becomes palpable. The actress is working on two levels. Holly is, on one hand, dealing with the increasing volatility around her. On the other, her life is rapidly crumbling, as she realizes her new marriage may not be able to withstand whatever comes out of the ordeal. Loftus grounds the story, ensuring that the revelations in the film's final minutes feel earned. Hattie Gotobed and Lukas Rolfe are also standouts, providing a nervous edge whenever their characters come onscreen.

Beautifully photographed by Sergi Vilanova Claudin and with a suitably ominous musical score from Jeremy Warmsley, Homebound proves engrossing from start to finish. Running a tight 70 minutes, the movie never feels like it's skimping on character or plot development. Quite the opposite, in fact. You get a total story here, one that ends on a note guaranteed to generate a shiver.

Homebound is unrated, but contains adult language and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 10 minutes.