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Housebound gets out and about in Austin

Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound has traversed a slow road since being greenlit in the first round of Escalator back in late 2010. According to the early words coming out of SXSW, the wait has definitely been worth it. No doubt with some help from Housebound’s EP Ant Timpson and US distributor XYZ Films (also busy at SXSW with The Raid 2) the US-based genre websites were teased into interest in the title, and all seemed to bite on Sunday (US time) a couple of days out from the premiere screening.

The poster got positive comments, as did this clip:

Momentum was dutifully built, with Timpson confidently tweeting before the screening: Best film screening @SXSW today? Easy #HOUSEBOUND @ VCC 9.30pm

Soon after the screening, tweets began appearing. XYZ tweeted “Word on the street is that the horror comedy HOUSEBOUND is the surprise of sxsw”, mirroring the sentiment of one of the earliest reviews to appear, from ShockTillYouDrop.

A rash of tweets from those at the premiere screening and Q&A were very positive:

Bill Graham
Absolutely loved #Housebound. What a trip! Perfect blend of horror and comedy that manages go have great goofiness and still work.

HOUSEBOUND may be the sleeper of SXSW.

Erik Childress
HOUSEBOUND may not be in the #SXSW Midnight section but its a wacky haunted house debut from Gerard Johnstone with a climax that won’t quit.

Richard Whittaker
So #Housebound is one of the more fun things I’ve seen at #SXSW14 – well done

Nigel Floyd
#housebound was a total blast … Joyous last 30 min celebrating everything from Carpenter to Dead Alive – so fun!

Tina Coleman
Wow! Just saw #Housebound and was so wonderful! Just the right mix of thrills and hilarity 🙂 so much fun!

Matt Bolish
Just leaving the world premier of a GREAT horror flick #housebound at #SXSW14 fun, new, even some laughs.

Shay Tressa DeSimone
Just caught the world premiere of #Housebound – brilliant stuff! 🙂

Ryan Turek’s ShockTillYouDrop review was equally positive, if longer.

Gerard Johnstone's Housebound: So shall I drop the light and break it or wander around down here until the batteries crap out?

Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound: So shall I drop the light and break it or wander around down here until the batteries crap out?

“Meet the big genre surprise of SXSW 2014 … this is one to look out for. Housebound is a pleasing blend of scares and laughs wrapped in a Tales from the Crypt-like package that doesn’t sacrifice character for thrills.”

The cast

“keeps the heartbeat of Housebound going. Their chemistry is endearing and the performances are pitch-perfect … Johnstone maintains a good sense of mystery and, in addition to being able to deliver the laughs, he’s got a firm grasp on what makes a scare gag effective. They evolve as the film progresses, culminating in a fiercely fun and unrelenting finale.

The film is a real discovery and an impressive debut for first-time feature filmmaker Johnstone.

The only negative criticism of the film is that the pacing is sometimes off, a concern repeated in Peter Hall’s Movies.com review.

Despite that concern Hall noted, “there’s something to appreciate on-screen the entire time”.

Hall also praised most aspects of the film, assessing it as “a horror movie that should be on every genre fan’s radar” and concluding

Housebound is a breath of fresh air for the often stale haunted-house genre; a smart, finely acted, appropriately silly and yet totally sincere horror movie made for people who have seen it all and want something a little different.

Prior to turning in his review, Hall tweeted his immediate reaction: HOUSEBOUND rules. A haunted house movie with slasher investigation mindset and a really great sense of humor. Great actors and characters.

In conversation with the Austin Chronicle, Johnstone acknowledged some of the challenges of the budget.

We knew that the house would be one of the most important characters in the film, but our budget made it difficult to get the perfect location … In the end, we got lucky, but we only had half the film in the can at the end of the shooting schedule and somehow our paltry location fee afforded the home owners the opportunity to make renovations they’d been waiting 10 years to make, which made pick ups increasingly difficult.

and being a first-time feature filmmaker

The balance between funny and scary wasn’t something I was particularly conscious of until I realized I’d mostly got it wrong.

He also acknowledged Peter Jackson, with whose early work the Movies.com review had also drawn comparisons.

Peter Jackson has definitely been a big influence on any New Zealander that wants to make films … though I’m pretty sure we’re all trying to look like Roman Polanski but due to the low budget, it still ends up looking like Bad Taste.

Housebound is the second of the 2010 Escalator haul to release. Juliet Bergh’s Existence had its premiere in the Wellington leg of the NZIFF in 2012 ahead of appearances at the US’ Citizen Jane Festival and Vietnam’s HANIFF, in between picking up two gongs at the SWANZ awards.

Housebound has further SXSW screenings today and Friday (NZ time).

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