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Film Review: ‘His House’ Confidently Mixes Horror with Social Commentary

Courtesy of Netflix
Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu appear in His House by Remi Weekes, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Aidan Monaghan. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Elevated horror is all the rage these days. After all, the genre frequently goes through phases, favoring different sub-genres. Most recently, “elevated horror” has taken over, filtering fright flicks through a more independent lens. Hitting Netflix today is His House, a film that manages to be a really strong example of this. Taking a genuinely dramatic issue and going the scary movie route with it, filmmaker Remi Weekes makes an arresting debut here. If you’re looking for something to really unsettle you in the lead up to Halloween, while still engaging your brain, this is a top tier option, to be sure.

His House looks at the refugee experience in a harrowing yet realistic manner, which is quite the achievement, considering the supernatural elements that come into play. Weekes invests the audience in both elements of the story, which is absolutely crucial here. Without the emotion of the drama, this would just be a well-executed horror film. Instead, it’s a full cinematic meal.

Netflix

After a refugee couple makes a rather harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, they’re expecting life in a small London town to be much easier. Bol (Wunmi Mosaku) was a bank employee in his old life, so the hope is that he and his wife Rial (Sope Dirisu) can adjust into the middle class seamlessly. It doesn’t go that way. First, they experience a tragedy during the escape. Then, they’re detained by the British government while their case for asylum is heard. Their housing placement is less than ideal, with casual racism tossed their way by the government officials. Then, there’s the more overt racism they experience from their neighbors. As if that’s not enough, an evil presence seems to be lurking in their home.

Slowly succumbing not just to the haunting that plagues them at night, but the racist slurs they hear during the day, Bol begins to lose his mind, while Rial struggles in a different way. Convinced that a witch from Sudan is the root of it all, they take very different paths in trying to deal with it. Drama, as well as terror, ensues.

Filmmaker Remi Weekes doesn’t skimp on the scares, but his head and his heart is invested in the drama. The haunted house elements are here, and really well executed, to boot, but the tragedy of the refugee experience is never given short shrift. Weekes’ visuals lead to some really great moments of terror, but investing you in Bol and Rial’s life is his top accomplishment. It’s truly what sets this one apart. His House works whether you’re looking for drama or horror. The former will engage you, while some moments of the latter will stop your heart.

Netflix

The performances by Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu are massively effective. Along with Weekes’ writing and direction, it’s their acting that helps draw you in. The way their evolve and devolve as the specter of horrors, both realistic and supernatural, close in them is oftentimes riveting. Matt Smith provides a small supporting role that’s mostly a cameo, so it’s all about Dirisu and Mosaku here.

His House will scare most audiences today, now that it’s out on Netflix. Moreover, it’ll provide character study and drama elements that really help to set it apart. Indie horror sometimes doesn’t actually have enough horror within it, but this is hardly that. The terror is there, buoyed by an extra sense of time and place by an emerging filmmaker. Give it a look!

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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