Deeply Moving, His House (2020) Haunts with Both Scares and Sorrows
Title: His House
First Wide Release: October 30, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Remi Weekes
Writer: Remi Weekes, Felicity Evans, Toby Venables
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After escaping South Sudan, a refugee couple Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) are accepted into a housing development in a small English town. The horrors in their life are only beginning as they have reason to believe that an evil presence is hiding within the house, one that may or may not have followed them on their journey to the United Kingdom. Remi Weekes’ directorial debut His House is a chilling and emotional political horror story wrapped in supernatural drama.
An unsettling and moving picture, His House delivers bone-chilling scares and existential musings on grief, loss, and survival.
His House is an exceptionally crafted horror film wrapped in a complex story of grief and loss. That story is deeply layered with backstory on the main couple that fleshes out their situation and characters in a way that makes their haunting feel even more terrifying. It’s hard to review His House without connecting its material to the very real-world horror occurring in the world to inspire it. His House personifies grief and loss in a way that several other supernatural films have done in recent years, but it still feels fresh, timely, and necessary, nonetheless.
The characters of Bol and Rial are the crux of the film and are truly fully realized characters with a rich and complicated history. Dirisu leans into Bol’s desire to assimilate and the nervousness that he has at making their current situation work regardless of what drove them there. He often repeats the line “this is our home” often after frightening paranormal encounters which often begs the question if he is trying to convince Rial or himself. Mosaku’s character arc is different in that she is often the more passive of the two. Her horror unravels in a more tangential way and it is gratifying to see her take control of her life and narrative towards the end.
The contrast between the nightmares of their journey and their new reality in England makes for some really engaging ideas. The nightmares that Weekes’ creates are vivid and are as beautiful as they are terrifying. My favorite scene in the whole film is one where Bol is eating and the camera slowly pans out to see him and his kitchen in a boat out at sea. It’s simply stunning. The house and city they now live in, however, are rundown and depressing. The nightmare’s lush scenery and powerful energy give life to the tale. The contrast with the UK propels the idea that Bol and Rial’s lives are far more multifaceted and alive than any of the characters or environment they interact with in England. Their new neighbors will never truly understand the complexities of their lives and many will, and do, shun them for not blending into their new surroundings immediately. But do they need to blend in to the mundane and sterile world they live in to be worthy of kindness, support, and respect? The real answer is no but this is obviously not true in the movie.
Weekes crafts a dark and surreal supernatural horror film that subverts typical genre expectations and tropes. The film is well-paced, keeping the audience in suspense on where it will go and making them re-think what has happened. As frightening as it is, it is a deeply somber and reflective film. The horror isn’t just the supernatural affecting them now but the other real horror they experienced journeying to that very house. Overall, The excellent use of lighting in the film makes this a reality.
Weekes crafts a dark and surreal supernatural horror film that subverts typical genre expectations and tropes. The film is well-paced, keeping the audience in suspense on where it will go and making them re-think what has happened. As frightening as it is, it is a deeply somber and reflective film. The horror isn’t just the supernatural affecting them now but the other real horrors they experienced journeying to that very house. Overall, His House is an incredibly well-made film that is effective both during and after viewing.
(POTENTIAL SPOILERS. PLEASE SKIP TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO AVOID THEM)
The primary driving force of fear in His House is survivor’s guilt. The more we learn about the Majurs, the more we realize that the flat they now occupy isn’t ground zero for hauntings much like traditional films. Instead, the conflict comes from within as they finally deal with the real implications of making it in the UK. The film often flashes back to when they are traveling across the sea with Nyagak (Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba) and what losing her means to the couple. The guilt is what haunts them and that is what makes His House stand out from its peers. There is also a secondary underlying element of xenophobia and treatment of refugees, but it is sidelined in favor of this primary story.
Captivating and haunting, His House is a compelling story of survival and loss. While light on traditional scares, His House amplifies its message through the constant dread and terror of its paranormal framing of guilt. In a similar vein to other international films such as The Babadook and Under the Shadow, His House is an excellent addition to the growing list of contemporary films using the supernatural in a particular manner to discuss very real topics in the world, even if it doesn’t quite reach the same heights of the former two. I absolutely recommend His House to anyone looking for a different kind of horror film.
Overall Score? 7.5/10