Genre: Comedy, Horror, Mystery
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Running Time: 107 Minutes
My Rating: 5/5
Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is put under house arrest after she is tries to rob an ATM, like the delinquent that she is. Her sentence must be served in her old childhood home, where her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Waita), and stepfather, Graeme (Ross Harper), can keep an eye on her. She has a reputation for being difficult and obstinate. Understandably, she is not keen on returning to her mother’s home, after years of estrangement, but she has no choice.
Once she's arrived and settled in, she starts to experience strange happenings and noises. Things moving, whispering and even one or two 'disembodied' hands. Kylie is a logical skeptic and refuses to believe her mother's fanciful stories of the house being haunted. As things start to escalate, Kylie finds herself drawn into the game, and with the help of Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), her house arrest officer, she is determined to get to the bottom of this story.
The casting was definitely this film's strongest aspect, not that the direction, script or set dressing were bad. The acting was just that good. O'Reilly's expressive face and comedic timing made this a thorough pleasure to watch. I found myself tensed but laughing at the characters’ antics, opinions and solutions. In additions to her expressive face, her overall performance is praiseworthy. She managed to portray the delinquent youth turned investigator turned reformed member of society with panache and without it seeming cliched. This is likely due to great writing and direction. The actors had very obvious chemistry on screen, making this easy to watch. The interplay between the characters and the snappy writing knocked this one out of the park.
I was immediately reminded of What We Do in the Shadows and Black Sheep, which were also Kiwi indies with sharp writing, solid special effects and considered casting. Speaking of special effects, this was not an overly gory film but what gore there was, was extremely well executed. The blood was realistic, the props weren't flimsy and the actors really threw themselves into some of those scenes.
This New Zealand offering was an unexpected gem, with strong characters who are entirely relatable and respond to situations in much the same way that I think I might respond in. Despite the image above, the gore was minimal and the jump scares weren't excessive. I was on the edge of my seat at times, waiting to see what these witty, sometimes annoying, people were going to do next. There were some genuine "laugh out loud" moments, with the humour and comic relief never feeling forced.
The plot isn't that difficult to figure out and I'm sure that there are a few plot holes or issues that we could find, if we wanted to, but all-in-all this was a fantastic film. The comedy was unexpected, as I wrongly assumed that all attempts at comedy would fall flat. If you are looking to kill some time and enjoy thrillers/mysteries, then definitely give this a watch. I would also recommend it for those of you who are easily scared by horrors or thrillers, as it builds tension well but keeps the overall tone lighthearted with the comedy. It's great for group viewing but can be equally entertaining as a solo round.
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