Meeting a partner’s family for the first time can be nerve-wracking — but when the family in question is your new fiancé’s creepy estranged children and the location is their isolated country home, things can get down-right terrifying.
Holly (Aisling Loftus of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) heads to the countryside with Richard (The Imitation Game’s Tom Goodman-Hill) for his youngest daughter’s birthday, but something isn’t right. Richard’s ex-wife is absent, and the children are alone in the large, dilapidated old house. Though they treat her with reserved politeness, it becomes increasingly clear that everything isn’t what it seems.
Writer and director Sebastian Godwin’s feature film debut is a mixed bag. Simple, contained, and with a runtime that comes in under 90 minutes, Homebound opts for psychological chills over graphic violence. Get ready for mundane horror, and lots of it. Whether it’s a backyard swing, an abandoned bicycle, or leftover birthday cake, Godwin knows how to make innocent, every-day objects deeply unsettling. The problem with mundane horror is that it is difficult to sustain, especially for the full-length of a feature film (even one as short as Homebound). The creepy swing-sets and over-grown lawns can only inspire tension and dread for so long before some genuine terror is needed.
Though I was left longing for jump scares, the performances did not disappoint. Loftus’ Holly is an appealing, if slightly underdeveloped, heroine and her anxiety about meeting her new partner’s children felt realistic. Much of the film’s feelings of tension and dread come from Loftus’ performance, which weaves together both Holly’s fear and her heartbreak. She wants to please Richard. She wants to belong. But she is an outsider, unsure of her place in the family and struggling to connect with Richard’s distant, troubled children.
While all the young actors deliver strong performances, Hattie Gotobed is the standout as Richard’s oldest daughter, Lucia. Sinister and sympathetic in almost equal measure, I’m still not totally sure how I was supposed to feel about her character. But I can’t deny that she’s endlessly fascinating to watch.
Thanks to Jeremy Warmsley’s chilling score and Sergi Vilanova’s so-close-it’s-nearly-claustrophobic cinematography, Homebound is a sharp and polished package — even if it isn’t a particularly frightening one. Hardcore horror fans will probably be a bit disappointed but, as long as you aren’t expecting it to scare your pants off, Homebound is a decent (and concise) weeknight flick.
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