Director; Remi Weekes. Starring; Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, Matt Smith. Rated PG-13. Color. 93 minutes.
The demons of our past can haunt us in a variety of ways. Some decisions we make are truly negative and are not possible to take back. Others are made in an effort to survive in whatever circumstance one finds themselves. Writer/director Remi Weekes looks at the latter circumstance here and asks what one is willing to do in order to escape living in your own personal hell.
“His House” hits the ground running with a montage of a father carrying his daughter through the desert of Sudan, Africa. He reaches his wife and the group are herded like cattle into a truck before eventually escaping the mainland at night by boat towards England. Stormy weather causes complications for all the refugees with some drown during the trip. The nightmare continues until…
BOOM! Bol Majur (Remi Weekes) and his wife Rial (Sope Dirisu) wake up in a small detention center room for asylum seekers. Their daughter is not there with them. After three months a cold blooded group of parole board members grant the couple a probationary period of outside living before being able to formally begin the process of possible citizenship. The guidelines are strict, but it is a beacon of hope for the couple. From there they meet a caseworker named Mark (Matt Smith of “Doctor Who” fame). A compassionate man, Mark sets the two up in a shack that is falling apart. For Bol and Rial, they finally have a home of their own.
Things start off positive for Bol but not so much for Rial. Bol goes out and picks up supplies to start fixing up the house and even enjoys watching soccer with some friendly local residents. Rial is mostly stuck at home, and when she does go out a group of black kids she presumes would be friendly to her instead choose to ridicule the woman who is simply asking for directions. Typical pitfalls to be expected for any refugee. Yet from there the Majur’s experience turns out to be far different than most.
In just the first few nights Bol begins to hear mysterious voices coming from inside the walls. He tries to ignore them because jeopardizing this new life is not worth going back to his war torn home country. Rial at first does not completely believe in her husbands claims until she begins to see things, starting with a peach being sucked into the wall by a deathly looking hand. The dark spiritual hold over this couple continues to mount with incidents becoming potentially deadly. The emotions of the couple manifest further with Bol continuing to strive in hiding the demons that are driving him mad so the social workers do not notice a slip. Rial meanwhile is embracing these spirits that apparently followed them from Africa as she just wants to leave this new country that does not accept their kind. And I will leave it at that plot wise. Rest assured “His House” goes to places nowhere close to storytelling devices even the most educated film majors could guess.
Atmosphere is the number one element that makes “His House” so effective. Establishing a dire situation centered around survival from the opening frame puts the audience on edge before the horror aspects begin. Once spirits become involved they are shown with restraint as each incident becomes increasingly volatile with the well-being of the couple compromised both physically and mentally. The visuals by cinematographer Jo Willems is surreal, highlighted by a shot of Bol eating dinner that transforms into him walking through the ocean with dead spirits surrounding him. Cinematically this is a picture centered around an aura floating over ones head that is inescapable.
“His House” is like an onion, multi-layered and hard to cut through without tearing up for no reason. I do not mean actual tears, but it will cut deep into your area of right and wrong. The final climax is amazing and will have you questioning what you would choose to do in such extreme situations as well as how you would receive people attempting to escape certain death. Allow “His House” to scare you while also question your thinking about those trying to survive in less fortunate circumstances.