PLOT: A refugee couple attempts to start their life again in in a small town in England. Yet there is a darkness that awaits them, one that waits in the shadows of the home they reside in.
REVIEW: With Halloween only a day away, one of my favorite things is to seek out one original horror film. Usually, it’s a search for something that adds yet another level to the crowded genre. One of the most overused sub-genres when it comes to scares is the old haunted house storyline. We’ve had plenty of fantastic features to explore that very subject, and some are quite impressive. Yet when it comes to mysterious and ghostly beings terrorizing the living, much of it we’ve seen too many times before. And then there is HIS HOUSE, a new thriller from writer/director Remi Weekes. Premiering on Netflix this Friday, October 30th, this frightful tale examines this very subject with style, spooks, and relevance. What makes this story so compelling? Read on, and let’s give this location a visit.
HIS HOUSE tells the story of Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), a couple seeking asylum in England after narrowly escaping with their lives from South Sudan. The two are allowed to stay but with several conditions. Their caseworker Mark (Matt Smith), offers them a home to stay in, but they are not allowed to work or change locations. Once the two have settled into their new place, they discover that the transition will be even more difficult than expected. Both Bol and Rial soon realize that they are not alone. Something begins to terrorize the couple, bringing back difficult memories from their past. This mysterious force creates a hostile home environment for the two, as well as a fear that they may find themselves sent back to the hell they had narrowly escaped.
The plot may sound as though the filmmakers are forcing a political statement, but it’s only a part of this brilliant ghost story. The fact that the two are refugees helps build the intense fear that plays throughout the film by limiting what their options are. While Matt Smith plays what could have been your typical villainous government employee, the script never falls victim to stereotypes and cliches. Instead, this eerie feature manages to bring a bit of humanity to all the characters involved. Mark has dealt with people trying to start a new life, and the actor brings a sense of realism to a man who must make difficult decisions for others. The harsh situation explored never feels preachy or forced. It only elevates the frights on display.
Sope Dirisu (Gangs of London) and Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country) are sublime in the leading roles. The two bring a sense of honesty and heart to their performances. The more we learn about Bol and Rial, we realize the severity of their escape and what they lost on their journey. It’s the rare thriller that is emotionally potent but equally atmospheric and fright-filled. One of the best scenes’ involves Rial finding herself lost while on a walk. It’s a haunting moment that finds her dealing with the real-life scares of being a stranger in a strange land. At the same time, you have to question whether it’s a paranormal force bringing confusion and fear. These two actors are exceptional, and there is never a single moment that you don’t believe their plight.
The supernatural portion of the film works impressively. Much of the film is grounded in reality, with dreamlike images offered by Weekes managing to create a foreboding sense of terror that is palatable. The scares feel viable and raise the stakes for two people that have already faced their worst nightmares. And without giving much away, The Witch (Cornell John), the Scare (Nasir Jama), and The Queen (Vivien Bridson) all help create something uniquely scary. HIS HOUSE is an intelligent story, one that brings a sense of danger that also happens to be quite relevant. Even still, as stated, it’s never overtly forcing a message onto the viewer. It is a story about two people facing a frightening reality, one that attempts to rip them apart emotionally and put them in mortal danger.
HIS HOUSE is a marvelous ghost story. My only complaint revolves around a very pertinent scene that happens to have less than stellar visual effects. Aside from that minor issue, Weekes has created a modern ghost story that will likely feel just as disturbing many years to come. The performances from Dirisu, Mosaku, and even Smith are all compelling and bring humanity to the film. It’s the rare movie that realizes that fear can be as heartbreaking as it can be horrific. The last half hour is a perfect example of how to create an emotionally satisfying final act. The muted color palette from cinematographer Jo Willems and the excellent score by Roque Baños add to this fascinating thriller. If you are looking for something uniquely scary this spooky season, look no further than HIS HOUSE, currently available on Netflix.