Signal Horizon

See Beyond

{Fantastic Fest 2021} Homebound (2021)

There is no getting around the fact that Homebound shares similar plot elements to the 2019 film The Lodge. Holly is set to visit the home of her soon to be step children. Its a big day because not only is she meeting her husband’s children but they are also going to announce their engagement. To add to the potential weirdness of the weekend the introduction/birthday party for Richard’s youngest, all take place at Richard’s ex-wifes country home. Two of Richard’s children are teenagers and warm to Holly in a predictable teenage way, that is to say they DO NOT warm to her at all.

Similarly to The Lodge Homebound is shot to accentuate the dark wood of the house and that gives the entire film a claustrophobic feeling. After the celebratory party where everyone gets drunk (including the kids which could be just a cultural thing but seems weird as hell) the family settles down for the night except for those pesky teens who overhear the newlywed couples plans for the future. Early on Homebound relies entirely on its fantastic score to indicate the impending horror that is about to befall the family and this first moment is no different.

Coupled with the castle like feel of the country chateau Homebound leans into its English gothic roots. In that way the film has echoes of The Turn of the Shrew in ways The Turning (2019) even with its big budget couldn’t replicate. Henry James would be proud. The movie even brings in some elements of other classically British tales like Jane Eyre or perhaps more aptly The Wide Sargasso Sea.

The film runs just seventy minutes and that means the films pacing moves at often break neck speed, moving from daytime festivities like swimming in the pool to nighttime scenes that only reinforce Holly’s isolation. If the film has any flaws it would be that the relationship between Holly and Richard feels unfinished. As things get more intense and creepier (like weirdly creepy) their relationship feels less established–less concrete. That very well could be the point.

I did not care for The Lodge. I found it predictable and mean spirited. Both criticisms Homebound manages to avoid. I didn’t see any of the twist coming and even at the end the children manage to be empathetic while being scary as hell. I often enjoy movies that reach deep into their subtext to provide rich commentary on the politics of the day. Homebound is not that film. Its relatively short runtime mixed with pacing makes the entire film feel like a ghost story in its truest sense. A ghost story that fits well with the time of year. The final ten minutes of the film take place almost entirely in the dark and in the shadows and they are some of the scariest moments I have seen all year. Holy Shit!

As we find ourselves in October Country once again the hills of Homebound are fog and the rivers mist. The film perpetually turns itself away from the sun and embraces the shadows in a way that only British horror can. It is no wonder the project was partially funded by the BFI and the BBC. It was a lovely and terrifying start to the spooky season.

You can check out Homebound as part of Fantastic Fest 2021 through October 2nd.