• Zach Youngs

Movie Review: His House

His House is about a pair of Sudanese refugees, Bol and Rial. They survived a horrible trek across the country and a disaster at sea in which they lose their daughter. Bol and Rial make it to England to be granted temporary asylum and given a place to stay. Though, the house they are given is haunted by the ghosts and demons they brought with them. The film stars Sope Dirisu, Wonmi Mosaku, Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba, Javier Botet, and Matt Smith. The film is written and directed by Remi Weekes from a story by Felicity Evans and Tony Venables. The film is streaming exclusively on Netflix.

Holy shit His House is scary. I'm so glad I watched it in the day time. Though, wearing noise cancelling headphones is a scare in itself when a housemate comes around an unexpected corner. I completely expected this to be a "new horror" type of story with slow building terror rather than jump scares, but there are LOTS of jump scares with little relief in between. I also don't think I read the description of the film fully because I assumed that the entity scaring the bejesus out of this couple would be a former white man who didn't like that his vacant house is being used to house refugees. I was wrong and I'm all the more glad for it.

There are deeper layers at play in His House. As the film goes on, you realize what's haunting the couple may be a spirit, but far more than that it's their survivors guilt. As refugees who are making the effort to assimilate, to build a life for themselves, Bol and Rial are doing what the people they travelled with will never have the chance to do. That guilt weighs on them, so much so that Rial resists the new life and that's how the witch gets in.

The witch, or The Creature, as the actor who plays it is credited, doesn't make a full body appearance until the end. Instead we are treated to the manifestations of Bol's guilt. There's truly nothing scarier than a preteen in a mask that looks like it's made of skin. There's a sequence of turning the lights on that takes away the power to scare, but what's truly scary is that The Creature shows it doesn't need the darkness to appear. This entity can manipulate and interact when the lights are on. Though, one of the most nerve wracking set pieces doesn't come from The Creature.

I have grand anxieties about moving and getting lost in a new place. It's far different for Rial when she gets lost in the neighborhood, trying to find the doctor's office. It's a different kind of horror, but a horror all the same. Especially when she sees a kid at a dead end kicking a ball and then back tracks, gets back on the road and sees the same kid in a different place, kicking a ball against a different wall. It's even more tragic as she thinks she's found friendly faces amongst some Black kids, but they end up taunting her, telling her she should "go back to Africa." In a film with true terror, this is the scene that set me the most on edge.

Director Remi Weekes has an incredible eye for the horror. Even the horror in the bureaucratic process of being an asylum seeker. The shots he sets up with cinematographer Jo Willems put us off balance and the brilliant editing of Julia Bloch keep us there as the scares don't let up. There's a brilliant scene where Bol and Rial sit at the kitchen table and eat and as we get closer on Bol, the camera then pulls out and it becomes a more elaborate piece, another trick by The Creature as a chunk of the house floats on the water with Bol ignoring it, trying to eat his meal. There are lots of incredible compositions like this throughout.

My favorite performance in the film is the powerhouse of Wunmi Mosaku. His House is a terrific showcase for her talent. I love the power she imbues into Rial. Rial is experiencing the same haunting that Bol is, but she sees it in a far different way. Mosaku's delivery of the line, paraphrased here, "After all we've seen, you think I'm afraid of a few bumps?" is mesmerizing. Her ability to bring us along on the shift in narrative is a wonder. I am excited to see her get more roles where she can stretch further. I think we've only seen an inkling of her talent.

The best horror films have layers and depth to the frights and thrills. His House is more than a haunted house, it's more than a demon or witch. The film is more about the horrors of the immigrant experience and what we carry with us through our daily lives. His House is a brilliant and brilliantly scary social commentary. Watch this one, but maybe leave the lights on when you do.

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