Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"It will revolt some viewers, who won't see what's funny about it at all, but others will love it."

It's been a long time since a film of this kind has come along. Hailing from New Zealand, it's reminiscent of early works by that country's most famous son, Peter Jackson, with the same charismatic blend of comedy and gory horror found in the likes of Braindead. in keeping with this, it will revolt some viewers, who won't see what's funny about it at all, but others will love it.

Former Neighbours star Morgana O'Reilly plays Kylie, a young woman who likes to live life on her own terms and to hell with anybody else. When this leads her to commit a series of petty crimes, however, she is eventually placed in a security cuff and ordered to remain under house arrest for six months - back in her mother's home, where she grew up. This means no work, no play, no hanging out with friends, just a whole lot of sitting around. It doesn't occur to her to help around the house. Her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), meanwhile, is stuck with this resentful presence despite having committed no crime herself. She tries to make friendly small talk. What Kylie hears is incessant, empty-headed babble with the occasional dash of self-conscious suburban racism. In other words, this is a horror movie whose main protagonists start out living in a nightmare.

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One of the beliefs Miriam holds that infuriates her daughter is a conviction that the house is haunted. Unfortunately for them both, there may be something to this, and as Kylie uncovers one secret after another she comes to believe that they could be in serious danger.

To get away with a story as OTT as this becomes, you really need to have strong central performances. O'Reilly is an inspired choice, quickly winning over the audience despite playing an obnoxious, self-centred young chancer. Her brutal honesty has a certain charm and after so many years of frantic heroines (and heroes) it's nice to meet one whose attitude to danger is to lash out hard with the nearest sharp object. Kylie may not be a well adjusted member of society but she can look after herself.

Te Wiata, meanwhile, is wonderful as Miriam, so habitually resentful that she can't resist a bit of passive aggressive bitching even when the pair's lives are in danger. Her love of waffling on enables the film to fill in lots of character background without seeming heavy handed and, indeed, most of it is irrelevant to the plot, but it contributes nicely to the atmosphere and to the sense of intimacy viewers develop with these people. The inappropriateness of such a woman finding herself in a horror film makes moments of dread a lot more powerful. It also adds believability to the film's most unlikely plot strand.

There's good support from Glen-Paul Waru as a local security guard and from a handful of other cast members, but the film sensibly keeps its team and story small. Excellent set design and some stand-out sound work contribute to the mix. It may not be very original but it certainly pinpoints its director and lead actresses as worthy of serious attention.

Reviewed on: 19 Sep 2014
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A failed criminal is placed under house arrest with her overbearing mother - and the house may be haunted.
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Director: Gerard Johnstone

Writer: Gerard Johnstone

Starring: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Cameron Rhodes, Millen Baird

Year: 2014

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: New Zealand

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