By Kelan Young

Mailed on March 11, 2015

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Dear Gerard Johnstone

Dear Gerard,

It's astonishing how easy you make it look, man. Blending horror and comedy in a manner that keeps one from overpowering the other is always a tricky feat. Frankly, it's difficult to think of any recent films that have successfully managed it. That’s why your whip-smart script for Housebound is so special—it brings the funny and the scary together beautifully.

It all starts with your strong handling of the characters. A question that inevitably comes up during the course of a haunted house flick is: "Why don't they just leave?" Sure, you have your Insidiouses and your Paranormal Activities which explain it away by revealing that the supernatural activity is bound to a person instead of a location. But I quite dig your practical solution: because of the electronic monitoring device around her ankle, petty criminal Kylie is forced to deal with sinister goings-on, lest she violate the terms of her house arrest.

Neat and simple. Yet you provide us with a nice about-face later on when Kylie is given an opportunity to escape, only to stay for purely altruistic reasons. The more she learns about the house's bloody past, as well as a killer who has escaped justice, the more her motivations evolve. She undergoes genuine moments of growth, and doesn’t just make decisions solely to benefit the script.

I also wanted to share a brief thought or two about Amos, the security guard tasked with monitoring our protagonist: you so easily could have made him the stock asshole who scoffs when evidence of the supernatural first rears its head, but his boyish enthusiasm and immediate willingness to help is incredibly charming. He’s yet another great character that elevates this already great movie.

Bit back to what I was saying before: it's impressive how carefully you tread the line between comedic and full-on horror elements. There's a great bit with dial-up internet, terrific banter between Kylie and Amos, and some outrageously zany gore gags that bring to mind the early work of Peter Jackson. But there is also genuine tension when there needs to be, and we never lose sight of just how high the stakes are for our protagonists. What best exemplifies this balancing of contrasting tones is the climax. It features one of the best extended showdown-with-a-killer sequences I've seen in recent memory, it manages to be gut-bustingly funny one second and hand-wringingly intense the next.

I must admit that I felt a slight twinge of disappointment when the movie shifted gears and the nature of what's was truly on at the house was cast in a different light. But that speaks more to my personal expectations, and it was certainly a clever and unexpected direction to take the story. It hit some unexpectedly emotional beats as well.

I'm guessing you've heard the news that Housebound is already being optioned for an American remake. It’s so bafflingly unnecessary that I can't even put it in words (maybe just a series of inarticulate noises). It seems a safe bet that we can save ourselves a little time and write it off as being inferior.

Years from now, if Housebound isn't mentioned in the same breath as other horror-comedy classics like Dead Alive and Evil Dead II, than I'll be sure to eat my hat.



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