The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Mixing horror and comedy can be really tricky. Go too far in one direction and you undermine the chills. Go too far the other way and you undermine the laughs. Any movie that finds the right balance between the two can become something really special. Think the original Scream, The Evil Dead 2, or Shaun of the Dead, for instance. Now we can add another success to the shortlist: the New Zealand thriller Housebound.

The premise here is actually rather ingenious. Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly) is a troublemaker who has just gotten in hot water with the law - again. Rather than being sentenced to prison, she is sentenced to house arrest at the home of her mother and her mother's boyfriend. She soon discovers that there are weird paranormal things going on inside the place, but of course, she can't really leave because of the monitor bracelet around her ankle. Kylie has to stay and deal with whatever it is that's invaded the home. She does get some help from Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), a security guard from the company monitoring her incarceration. Together, they uncover a shocking secret about the house and the true nature of its “possession.”

Housebound clues you in early on that it isn't going to be a generic haunted house story. Something about the early indicators suggests that a mere ghost or demon isn't responsible for the strange occurrences. This keeps you hooked, as you wait to find out what's really going on. Writer/director Gerard Johnstone doles out clues carefully, teasing your attention, but never testing your patience. When all is finally revealed, it turns the entire movie on its ear, delivering a few genuinely surprising twists. Of course, it's always great fun when a movie is unpredictable.

Johnstone takes the time to carefully create an engaging backstory to explain everything that's going on. Much of the suspense comes from getting pieces of the puzzle, realizing their potential implications, then waiting with anticipation to see how they play out. It's difficult to say more without treading into spoiler territory, but Housebound utilizes mental health disorders and architectural qualities to generate tension, thereby rooting everything that happens in some kind of reality.

There are also plenty of moments that are just funny. The movie has a dry sense of humor, with characters prone to casually making understatements in the midst of dire circumstances. Kylie, the most troubled of the characters, is the most normal of them. Everyone else is somewhere on the spectrum from slightly quirky to downright daft. Watching them attempt to sort out the home's mystery makes for lively entertainment.

At 107 minutes, Housebound feels a bit too long. It's slow to start, and there are occasional moments where the pace drags ever so slightly. It does, however, end with a bang, as the final twenty minutes deliver one unexpected twist after another. On the whole, this is a fun thriller that mixes laughter and chills with admirable skill.

Housebound will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray Nov. 18.

( out of four)

Housebound is unrated, but contains adult language, violence, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.

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