A scene from writer-director Sebastian Godwin’s mystery horror film, ‘Homebound.’

Title: ‘Homebound’

Director: Sebastian Godwin

Starring: Tom Goodman-Hill, Aisling Loftus, Raffiella Chapman, Hattie Gotobed and Lukas Rolfe

Embarking on an unfamiliar journey, both physically and emotionally, is one of life’s most challenging experiences. But first-time feature film writer-director, Sebastian Godwin overcame the unknown of making a feature with the tense new mystery horror movie, ‘Homebound,’ which had its World Premiere at last month’s Fantastic Fest. A creeping sense of dread permeates the entire story of the family-driven drama, which is driven by a contentious felling of teenage angst and rebellion as the adolescents and their parents struggle to find ways to cope with their changing relationships and dynamics.

‘Homebound’ follows Holly (Aisling Loftus) as her excitement builds over finally being able to meet her fiancé Richard’s (Tom Goodman-Hill) three children for the first time. The couple travel to his ex-wife’s secluded home in the English countryside in order to attend a birthday celebration for his youngest daughter, Anna (Raffiella Chapman).

But as the new couple arrives at the home that Richard once shared with his children and ex-wife, Holly becomes nervous at the proposition of being a stepmom, especially since she’s not much older than his eldest daughter, Lucia (Hattie Gotobed). But as Holly still tries to make a good impression on the children, the circumstances of the new family’s dynamic are revealed to be far from ideal.

Holly receives an unwelcome reception Lucia and her brother, Ralph (Lukas Rolfe), especially when they refuse to explain why their mother is nowhere to be found on the property. So Holly and Richard decides to stay with the children until their mother returns home, during which time he tries to lighten the mood by being the permissive parent. But as the days pass with no word from Richard’s ex-wife, the children become more and more hostile to Holly, and her suspicions begin to mount.

‘Homebound’ powerfully thrives on the relatable, spine-tingling mystery of what truly influences children’s motivations in modern society, especially in the wake of their parents’ separation and when one begins a new romantic relationship. The chilling horror tale is also driven by a creeping sense of dread that permeates throughout the entire film, particularly as the children and adults try to balance their new family dynamic and relationships with the secrets they all possess.

The dread and trepidation that subtly increases between the characters in every interaction they have is enthrallingly brought to the screen by the excellent performances from the entire cast. But Godwin perfectly elicits the most tension and suspense between Holly and Lucia, who clash on their ideas on how to best approach their relationships with not only each other, but also Richard, during their time together at the family home.

Loftus naturally infuses Holly with a genuine good nature, as she wants to build positive bonds with her future step-children and truly worries about their well-being. But her kindness is understandingly short-lived when her fiancé’s children, particularly Lucia and Ralph, are relentless in alienating her from their family activities.

Gotobed was also well cast in the film, as she highlights Lucia’s wariness of having a potential new step-mother. The teen girl is understandably upset over the disruption in her family life, and the actress grippingly shows that pain through her character’s relentless ambition to separate her father from his new fiancée.

But there are also moments in which Lucia, who largely acts as the movie’s antagonistic force, subtly expresses her concern for her parents and parental figures, particularly Holly. While the teen often says things to purposefully upset her future step-mother, Lucia also tries to protect her father’s new fiancée from pain at times.

Its atmospheric and increasingly claustrophobic – visuals also make ‘Homebound’ a stellar entry in the horror genre. The expert cinematography by Sergi Vilanova and production design by Zoe Payne perfectly work together to further emphasize the daunting nature of the family’s circumstances, which are brought to the forefront by the cast’s stellar performances.

Throughout the drama, Vilanova crafted intimate close-up shots of each of the actors indivudually, which frame the family’s inability to genuinely connect with each other. Those personal, visceral shots are set against at-times cramped rooms. The clutter in the rooms highlights the children’s belief that their existences were already full before the addition of their future step-mother, which skillfully emphasizes the ever-growing tension between the family.

‘Homebound’ powerfully thrives through the relatable, spine-tingling mystery of what truly drives children’s motivations in modern society, especially in the wake of their family separating. The dread and trepidation that subtly increases between the characters in every interaction they have is also enthrallingly brought to the screen by the excellent performances from the entire cast, particularly Loftus and Gotobed. Aided by its atmospheric and claustrophobic visuals, particularly the cinematography and production design, the mystery horror film offers a chilling insight into the truth depths of pain that family can cause in the most vulnerable of children – and adults.

Technical: A-

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B+

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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