Written by: Remi Weekes
Starring: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith, Javier Botet, Cornell John, Emily Taaffe
Seeking refuge in another nation comes with the hope of this new home providing safer and better opportunities. This promise makes the tough treks to reach these places worth it for the oppressed individuals. However, as with many aspects of life, some things are too good to be true. What should be a fresh new start for this South Sudanese couple quickly becomes a living hell in the enthralling and poignant His House. A film unafraid to take on the trauma and guilt associated with seeking refuge.
Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) and Bol (Sope Dirisu) await the opportunity to leave a detention center and be placed in a home with their refugee status. When placed in a house that could give them a fresh start, they begin to see strange visions of images from back home, mostly impacting Bol as he begins to discover he may be under some sort of vexing from a witch.
The beginning of His House paints the picture of a South Sudanese couple finally getting the opportunity to start a new life together with the assistance of the English government. They receive the house with a stipend but have some serious restrictions as to what they can do. They obviously cannot get involved in illicit activities, but their restrictions also include not being able to work, which surprised me. Their life at this point consists of just assimilating themselves with the people around them and checking in weekly with their caseworkers. Seems easy enough until the visions begin and the people we thought these people were begins to crumble right before our eyes.
With it having its scary moments, His House does not fear having embedded messages about nationalism with how these characters get treated. As both Bol and Rial ingratiate themselves in the neighborhood, you would think right away that the white English folks would harbor some racist and xenophobic thoughts, but a particular scene in the park illustrates this being a larger issue. It appears in a scene where Rial seeks help, as she’s lost in the neighborhood. She comes across three young Black teens, which changes her body language from being on-guard to a sense of ease, as she feels she has found people she knows will not be threatening to her. The interaction she has with those teens would make anyone shiver, seeing as they display a level of venom and xenophobia she never thought she would face from other Black folks. They mock her inability to speak English perfectly and even tell her to go back to Africa, which just creates a frightening experience. Skin color makes no difference, when it all becomes about who’s a real Brit and deserves to live in the country.
That sequence alone provides enough chills before getting into the supernatural mayhem occurring in the house itself, which mostly impacts Bol. These scares work very well as the horror lies in the house and all of the crevices that usually hide in plain sight but become glaring vessels of fright. Some wicked imagery gets shown, which nearly transports Bol to different places at times to confront things he has tried to suppress for a while now. These scenes come with a purpose as Bol has much to rectify for his actions in the past, which gets pointed out to an unsettling degree. It further sets the breakdown illustrating this familial family picture set out from the beginning may not be as straightforward as one would like to believe.
As a feature film debut, Remi Weekes heavily impresses with this feature, as he balances the tightrope of the themes along with the story elements filled with enough revelations and surprises to make you question everything you just saw. The different threads Weekes pulls in this story with how this couple feels internally and the situation around them pushes both characters to the limit of what they can handle. Weekes continues to tease out these scars seeking to confuse as much as they frighten in an effort for when the ultimate revelation arrives, it makes complete sense. This gets accomplished in spades as the tension continually builds in a thoroughly effective manner.
A hidden gem and one to recommend to any lover of horror films, His House combines its important message with some genuinely thrilling scares to break down this couple and face the repercussions for their actions. What promised to be a new start for them in a supportive nation turns into a living nightmare in the very place they should feel the safest.