Watching the horror-comedy “Housebound,” the writing-directing feature debut from New Zealand filmmaker Gerard Johnstone, evokes getting lost in a house with too many doors that lead to too many unneeded rooms. There’s a certain amount of tension and mystery in the twisty journey, but just as much frustration.
Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is a surly would-be bank robber sentenced to house arrest with her chatty mom, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), and innocuous stepdad (Ross Harper). That Kylie grew up in this big old cluttered home, yet fled from it as soon as she could, holds the key to some of the wacky story’s many puzzle pieces.
As the wildly selfish Kylie and the kinder, gentler Miriam rockily adjust to cohabitation, the specter of a house ghost rears its head. This leads a panicked Kylie to explore the paranormal possibilities, with the help of the burly security guard (Glen-Paul Waru) assigned to her case.
To avoid spoilers, best just to say that the nut job next door (Mick Innes), Kylie’s court-ordered shrink (Cameron Rhodes), a feral dude (Ryan Lampp) who resembles Michael Keaton in “Beetlejuice,” plus some hidden history about the house itself, all factor in.
The mishmash that results is by turns creepy, silly, inventive, darkly funny and, at one point, mind-blowingly bloody. Still, some smart streamlining would have sharpened the focus and amped up the power of this well-shot and edited spookfest.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.