Gerard Johnstone‘s Housebound is simply brilliant. It has action, horror and irony. Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) confined to house arrest. She hates being back at home with her mother and behaves like an unruly teenager. At the first whiff of a ghost, probation officer Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) turns into a professional supernatural investigator. Screeching noises, bad guy next door, talking dolls, and a scary Jesus are used to remind the audience of familiar horror themes. As the supernatural-horror is made familiar to the audience, the ordinary is made unfamiliar. That’s what ethnographic analysis is all about: you make ‘familiar the unfamiliar and make strange the familiar’. In ethnography, you need to look for the similarities of what is unfamiliar to you (like a foreign far away culture or a workplace you’ve never experienced) by comparing to what is known to you. In studying something familiar (part of the same culture of the ethnographer), you make it strange to see the customs and rules of that particular situation (for example dress codes).
So by turning ordinary people into strange horror characters we get a glimpse of our society, its rules, and its fears. The solitary eccentric man is turned into a sinister figure, possibly a murderer, police officers into sloppy and simple men, and professionals into the enemy. Housebound is a subtle critique of a society that requires everybody to behave in predictable and ordinary ways. It makes fun of it by choosing as heroes people who really don’t fit and turning the institutional (and institutionalised) figures of the police, the law and heath-care professionals into the real misfits.