Friday, 30 October 2020

His House (Movie Review)

Netflix brings its October horror releases to a close with His House, a supernatural horror film that debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is helmed by first-time director, Remi Weekes, who also wrote the screenplay. And talk about saving the best for last, as the film is easily one of the most original horror films to grace the streaming platform.

The movie centers upon a pair of asylum seekers, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku). The married couple had fled the war-torn region of Southern Sudan, for the promise of a better life in the UK, but lost their daughter, Nyagak, along the way. Now they both carry the guilt and burden of her death, even as they struggle to adapt to their new environment. This includes the ramshackle house they've been assigned to live in, as they undergo evaluation to see how well they fit in.

Despite feeling like they are being set up to fail, the couple is determined to prove their suitability for integration into life in their new home. But when they start having encounters with several malevolent entities in the house, they are forced to reckon with the possibility that the place is truly haunted, and not just by the memories of the past horrors they've had to endure. Now they must choose between facing their demons, or risk getting sent back to Sudan.

His House is unlike any supernatural horror film I have seen. A big claim, I know, but one I wouldn't be making if I wasn't still struggling to pick my jaw up from the floor. Not only was it layered with deep characterization and ample social commentary, it was also genuinely scary, a fact I can no longer take for granted having had to wade through so many horror films that simply lacked any kind of scares.

The decision to base the film on the experiences of a pair of Sundanese refugees lends the film a very unique backdrop. But what truly elevates the movie is how it weaves those experiences into something greater than the sum of its parts. The film touches on everything from the ostracization of refugees in the UK, to the inescapable nature of one's ancestral origins. The fact that it handles these topics so deftly, without compromising on scares, is worthy of praise.

The movie is also anchored by strong performances from its two Nigerian leads. They each embodied their characters, bringing them to life with the skill of artists in full command of their craft. I confess that I wasn't all that familiar with much of their body of work, but they've definitely made a blip on my radar after this. And the same praise can be extended to Remi Weekes' screenplay and direction, which was never anything less than sharp and effective.

If it wasn't already clear by now, I thoroughly enjoyed watching His House, more so than any other horror film I had seen this past month. It takes the genre's familiar tropes, and plunges them into unfamiliar territory, resulting in something ultimately new and fresh.


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