Five Questions For HOUSEBOUND Director Gerard Johnstone

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Five Questions For HOUSEBOUND Director Gerard Johnstone
Yes. Housebound is that good. No. We will not stop talking about it. When the opportunity came up to fire off some questions to the director, Gerard Johnstone, I went to the rest of the ScreenAnarchy crew and by committee we came up with some questions for him. 

TwitchDuring the Q&A at Fantastic Fest, producer Ant Timpson noted that you re-worked the movie extensively after the first rough cut. What were you aiming to achieve that was different than what had been shot originally? 
Gerard Johnstone: The movie had no soul. It was just Kylie saying witty one-liners. I stripped a lot of the dialogue out and tried to give it some space to breath. Mainly I was just trying to make it better. But yes, I did shoot an entirely new middle bit.
How did you balance scares and humor, because HOUSEBOUND does it right, while so many other films do it wrong?
Thanks very much. Maybe it was due to the fact that the premise was inherently funny and spooky, so those elements never felt forced, they were to some degree compulsory requirements. Housebound does take itself relatively seriously as a horror movie, which helps differentiate it from films which rely heavily on parody. I also had the realization early on that you can't learn how to be funnier, but you can learn how to create tension, so I concentrated on that.    
Actor Rima Te Wiata used to be big in New Zealand and to a lesser degree in Australia in comedy skit TV shows and such. But she hasn't been seen on screen, hasn't been working for the last 15 or so years. To me she's the best thing in the film, she was consistently hilarious. I wonder how you got such a great performance out of an actor who hasn't been in the game for such a period? 
Rima's brilliant. She had all the tools, she was just a bit out of practice with acting on screen. She was in theatre for 20 odd years so she wasn't savvy to the concept of getting a performance in pieces. She kept having a meltdown when she fudged a line and I'd have to remind her that I can do another take of that bit. Actually she'd never let me do that until the very end, she'd want to do the entire two pages, when it would just be one line or a look that I needed. I think that's why the film took three years to complete.     
Where did you draw your influences from when it came to the comedy and the horror? When I went to the ScreenAnarchy crew for questions by committee, one title that kept coming up was THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. 
Sure, that was a huge influence. Embarrassingly so. I watched it again after I'd written the script and could see where I was getting all my ideas from. But more conscious influences were The Legend of Hell House, The Changeling, The Haunting. But also thrillers like Dead Again, Blood Simple and The Silence of the Lambs were on the desk a lot. I watched Clue a couple of times, but the style of comedy I was influenced by really came from the Mike Leigh and Alexander Payne school of banal social realism.  
Lay out the genesis of this film. Where did the idea come from? Did you draw from personal experiences? Did you have to wear the anklet and this was one way by which you have brought closure to that chapter in your life? :)
No I've never gotten so much as a parking ticket. It was really a love letter to my mother. It was about addressing the frustrating disconnect that exists between families and suggesting that perhaps all we need is a good ghost mystery to bring us together. 

(Shockingly, there are only a handful of images of Johnstone online. The above image of this handsome devil was taken from Flick Talks)

Housebound opens on Friday, October 17 in select theaters in the U.S. 

Ard Vijn, Peter Martin, Michele "Izzy" Galgana and Daniel Rutledge contributed to this story.

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