His House Review: Neftlix’s most compelling and scariest horror movie yet
Writer/director Remi Weekes’ feature debut, His House, is a compelling refugee horror story that battles a haunting past and a conflicting culture shift.
The film follows Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) Majur – a married couple traveling to London as refugees trying to escape their war-torn home in South Sudan. Losing their daughter Nyagak (Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba) along the way during a rough sea travel, the two are simply hoping they can find a better life in London. However, upon arriving, they are forced to live in crummy conditions and follow strict guidelines in order to not get sent back. While they still maintain an optimistic outlook on leaving their past behind them, they quickly become haunted by the life they’ve left behind as a malevolent night witch, known as an apeth (Javier Botet), makes them see horrifying visions. Now, as they attempt to transition to a new life in a new place with a new culture, they must also confront their past as the apeth attempts to tear them apart.
Weekes makes His House a strong depiction of the refugee journey as he showcases the horrifying losses that Bol and Rial experience in the hopes of gaining a new life. Honestly, just the visual of them having to travel across the sea in a jam-packed boat and losing their daughter amongst other immigrants that were taken by the sea would be enough to show how treacherous the journey for freedom and safety can be. However, Weekes shows that there are more hardships for them to face when they reach their destination. Hearing all of the guidelines they have to follow and seeing the rundown condition of their new living space, with the wallpaper peeling and the building looking abandoned for years, really makes you empathize with their struggles to adapt and feel like they’ve found a home. Even the discrimination they face with the dirty looks they receive and people even pissing on their doorstep because they don’t think anyone lives there makes you see how refugees continue to struggle to acclimate to their new environment and create roots of their own. Add in the fact that if they are seen as unable to adapt to their new environment or have any sort of pushback they’ll be forced to relocate or possibly even get sent back to their country and the bubble they are forced into is clear to see.
The deep cultural impact that slowly causes a rift between Bol and Rial is the most striking though as their conversations and actions toward “fitting in” cut the deepest. The film really showcases refugee acclimation as cultural Darwinism where only the adaptable survive. While Bol attempts to convert himself in both his look and actions to fit into this new environment and culture, Rial isn’t so willing to adjust herself and leave behind the culture, values, and traditions that she’s known her whole life. Thus, they are pitted in this battle of ideology that threatens to tear them apart and it’s a deeply personal showing that makes you closer to both characters. Each of their point of views make sense as Bol just wants to fit in so that they don’t get deported back to Sudan and Rial just want to lose herself and wants to exist in a world that’s accepting of her and her background, but reality doesn’t let these views co-exist. It’s a very poetic showing of culture clash that defines a real meaning to the word “home” that’s not only heightened and made more compassionate by incredible performances from Dirisu and Mosaku, who also just killed it on Lovecraft Country, but also influence the awesome horrors that unfold because of the apeth.
Utilizing an incredible sound design and some truly inspired, trippy transition sequences, His House is easily one of the creepiest films of the year. Weekes’ delivers some shocking jolts and jumps that catch you off guard and builds some very effective supernatural suspense. The designs for the spirits are definitely one of the best aspects of the film as it looks to be mostly practical and Weekes uses the crammed space of the apartment really well. The look of Bol’s vision of Nyagak is especially daunting when it attempts to wreak havoc on him and the way that Weekes captures the film’s main apeth is really suspenseful. Not to mention, it helps that the film’s main antagonist is played by Botet – a legendary creature actor in the industry. The biggest horror of the film really comes when it’s revealed why the apeth has marked Bol and Rial as a flashback shows a tragic decision that Bol made in order to survive. It’s a legitimately shocking reveal that pieces together some of the conflicts they’ve had about Nyagak’s death and connects really well to the lengths refugees are forced to go in order to find refuge.
With it’s unique showcasing of the horrors refugees face in simply trying to find safety, powerful performances from Dirisu and Mosaku, and effective scares that’s constantly leave you on the edge of your seat, His House is one of the powerful and horrifying horror experiences of the year. It’s an absolute must-watch for any Netflix subscriber out there and delivers a new rising voice in writer/director Remi Weekes that people definitely need to be on the lookout for in the future.