One of the more refreshing horror movies to come out lately is the New Zealand comedy Housebound. After an exciting film festival run, the movie has gotten a U.S. home video release. The story is an homage to various horror films, including The Legend of Hell House, The Changeling, and The Evil Dead. Spinning off the ghost hunting craze and borrowing from some home invasion thrillers, Housebound is one of those movies worth seeking out.
Recorded in August 2014, before the actors actually saw the final version of the film, the production brain trust took some time to drink beer and watch the movie together. Here is the result.
Commentators: Gerard Johnstone (writer/director), Ant Timpson (executive producer), Luke Sharpe (producer)
1. The opening of the movie was originally conceived to be much longer with some backstory to Kylie’s (Morgana O’Reilly) friend, but it was edited out for the ATM robbery to be the first scene.
2. Writer/director Gerard Johnstone once saw a tricked-out sports car with a low spoiler get caught on the judder bar (or speed bump, if you’re not a Kiwi), so he wrote that into the opening of the film.
3. O’Reilly was the only person Johnstone had in mind for the lead. There was such little time for casting, he simply offered her the role, and she accepted.
4. The helicopter shots of Kylie being driven to her parents house was shot with a drone.
5. Three houses were used for the location. There was an exterior location, an interior location, and a basement location.
6. Glen-Paul Waru (affectionately called “GP” by the crew), who plays Amos, went to film school with Johnstone, as did Ryan Lampp, who plays Eugene.
7. The film was cut to a temp score using music by Christopher Young, Jerry Goldsmith and Danny Elfman. Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper was brought in to score the film and emulate the music, which he did using computer instruments rather than an orchestra.
8. Wetandforget.co.nz, which is featured in a radio ad was product placement in the film. According to Timpson, the company thought they were buying placement in the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
9. The radio that Kylie listens to is a prop that did not work, which is why none of the lights are on when she’s listening to it.
10. The radio room was actually shot in a room of the exterior location house because it was added during pick-ups, and the interior location was being renovated and no longer looked the same.
11. O’Reilly was advised not to keep her hair dyed black outside of the production, so in many of the exterior shots and reshoots, she is wearing a wig.
12. Rima Te Wiata’s hair also changes length throughout the film because she had cut it shorter before doing the pick-up shots.
13. Johnstone put the book “Spacepaw” by Gordon R. Dickson in a close-up of the old books in the basement because he said he saw that book in many secondhand bookshops he’s been to.
14. Kylie was supposed to be watching Nancy Drew or a popular television program like The Bachelor when she fights with her mother about the television. However, they could not get the rights, and they went with a public domain movie. This resulted in the film being praised for the “Amblin-like” quality with nostalgic old movies in it.
15. Not only would a modem connection (used by Kylie’s parents) not work with New Zealand’s phone system, but there are no longer analog television broadcasts either.
16. There is actually a cat in the house, which is shown in earlier cuts, but it never ended up in the final film.
17. Kylie’s ringtone, which leads her to the basement, was supposed to be a song from Sisters of Mercy, but they couldn’t afford the rights (again) and it wasn’t identifiable as a ringing cell phone.
18. The three-quarter-scale Jesus statue that almost falls on Kylie was written into the script, but the crew had trouble finding a prop after visiting a variety of churches. They ended up finding the statue at the most obvious location: one of the biggest prop stores in Auckland.
19. Eugene’s hand, which grabs Kylie’s ankle in the basement, belongs to production designer Anya Whitlock. They used her because she is very tall with long fingers.
20. When Kylie strikes Amos when he shows up at the house, O’Reilly actually ended up hitting Waru for real. Later in the film, due to a misunderstanding of which hand he was to slap O’Reilly with in the McDonalds parking lot, Waru ended up slapping her in the face for real as well.
21. The data logger that Amos uses in the house is actually a guitar tuner.
22. The childhood pictures of Kylie are actually pictures of O’Reilly herself as a child.
23. Because actors often list “other skills” on their resumes, Johnstone knew that O’Reilly knew how to tap dance, so he included that into the film.
24. The RAV-4 that Amos drives belonged to Johnstone’s parents, who had to drive around for three years with a “Titan Security” label on it while the film was shot.
25. The possums that Kraglunk (Mick Innis) butchers and skins were real possums shot by production designer Jane Bucknell’s father. It turns out that the actor actually knew how to skin a possum, which he did on camera.
26. The trap Amos steps in was meant to be a possum trap, but they are actually very small, so it was made to be the size of a bear trap. While it looks menacing, it was actually rubber that was painted to look like metal, which is why they could not shoot it for long shots.
27. The first day of filming was in the hospital after Kylie accidentally stabs her father in the stomach. Originally, at the time of shooting the scene, the plan was that he was in the hospital because of an accidental electrocution.
28. There are quite a few digital effects in the movie, but most of them were used to make minor changes. One example is when Amos shows Kraglund the watch, it was a different watch than what Kylie finds in the heating vent. So, the production digitally painted the actual watch into the scene.
29. The room-within-a-room set was actually a real feature in one of the location houses. The only digital effect used in that scene was to put the correct wallpaper in the outside room.
30. One of the hardest props to find was a laundry basket that would fit over actor Cameron Rhodes’ head. In the end, they had to split the back of a basket open to allow it to go around Rhodes’ head and shoulders.
31. All of Eugene’s pictures of Kylie were drawn by Anya Whitlock.
32. The climax on the roof was shot on a soundstage with the sky digitally put in the background, as well as the ground below.
33. There was only one take allowed when Dennis’s head explodes.
34. The final scene was shot partially on a video camera from Miriam’s (Rima Te Wiata) point of view because her schedule would not allow her and Wasu to be in the same scene together.
Best in Commentary
- Johnstone: “And welcome to the greatest audio commentary in the history of film.”
- Timpson: “She wees really good.” Sharpe: “She’s got a boy’s bladder.”
- Johnstone: “Peter Jackson didn’t have a problem with it.” Timpson: “Agh! How many times are you going to bring that up during this commentary?”
It’s clear that all three of the commentators have great rapport, and they manage to have a friendly conversation throughout the movie without getting bogged down in minutia or over-thinking things. It is a relaxed commentary, especially when they uncork a bottle of champagne from 2011 that they had been meaning to drink as a celebratory of wrapping the film.
There’s several tangents throughout the movies, including a bizarrely heated discussion of how much they dislike Dyson vacuum cleaners, but those don’t spiral too far out of control.
The most difficult thing for a big, dumb American like myself was discerning who was who when they were speaking. Not to sound like a luddite, but all those Kiwi accents just seem to run together for me. That’s not racist, is it?
Still, this is a fun commentary for a fun movie that gives some inspiration for anyone who would like to put together a small-budgeted independent horror film.
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