In the picture

November 22, 2020

Compelling characters and terrific performances anchor the drama in the new horror thriller His House.

His House***1/2

*ing: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, and Matt Smith

Written and directed by: Remi Weekes

Remi Weekes uses haunted house horror to explore the refugee experience in his feature debut His House, a powerful thriller that weaves socio-political elements into the narrative.

The film tells the story of Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), a South Sudanese couple fleeing conflict. In search of a new beginning, they brave stormy waters to arrive on the shores of the United Kingdom, but lose their daughter, Nyagak (Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba), in an accident along the way. After a stay at a detention centre, the duo is finally granted probationary asylum. Their case worker (Matt Smith) then brings them to their new home: a dilapidated house on the outskirts of London that is in desperate need of upkeep.

But as they try to settle in and adapt to their new life, strange voices and visions begin to haunt them. Rial comes to believe that they are being targeted by a vengeful night witch. The protagonists are thereby left to deal not just with the apparitions that emanate from the walls of their house but also the looming fear of being deported lest they make a single wrong move.

The ghosts deliver the movie’s jump scares, but the actual horror of the situation lies in the plight of these asylum seekers who, it soon becomes apparent, are dealing with traumas from their past and struggling with the effects of grief and survivor’s guilt.

The proceedings are often touching and, at times, chilling, even though the movie does occasionally falter. The second act meandered a bit (a more taut screenplay could have perhaps made the drama even more intense, especially towards the middle), while the third act delivers a twist that switches the focus to the protagonists’ actions that cause their guilt, a development that some viewers might find more effective than others.

What massively helps the story though is the terrific performances by the leads; Wunmi Mosaku in particular makes it easy to form an emotional connection with Rial and be invested in her plight.

His House may not be the scariest movie you will ever watch, but it offers a different take on a well-worn genre. You can’t help but empathize with the characters’ predicament as Weekes dissects prejudices, indifference, desperation, assimilation, and several other issues. This is, for the most part, a well-crafted, well-shot, and well-acted project that takes you on an interesting, engaging journey, and delivers horrors both supernatural and – even more harrowingly – very real.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

In the picture