His House is one of those horror films that will stick with you. It gets under your skin and nestles there for a while.
The film dives into so many different emotions. There is drama, horror, suspense, heart-pounding anticipation, as well as thought-provoking relationships. While some may count it as political horror, it is more a commentary on the human condition than anything else.
It is a horror film based on the immigration experience. His House features characters we have not seen before or on screen in this way. It’s scary enough to give you chills in the daytime. I cannot wait for viewers to be a part of it. His House is one of the best Black horror movies, which defies the stereotypes that often come with Black people in the genre.
His House is the feature debut from director and writer, Remi Weekes. The film stars Sopé Dìrísù (Humans), Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country), and Matt Smith (Doctor Who). His House follows a young refugee couple (Dìrísù and Mosakuas) and their harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan.
After a devastating shipwreck that kills everyone around them, including their young daughter, the couple finds themselves in a small English town with a new life and a house of their own. Struggling to find their place and impress their council housing employee (Smith), the couple finds themselves surrounded by a growing evil lurking beneath the surface. It is a satirical exploration of the British asylum system and a refreshing spin on the haunted house plot.
In a brief Q&A following the screening of the film, Mosaku revealed that she took the role because of how the script spoke to her. The couple is haunted by what they have been through, the people who they have become, and their experience. The story is layered and rich. Mosaku also revealed that she was aware of the refugee crisis but had not heard from the people in this way, and this film made her truly connect. The story and themes are strong and memorable. The acting is fantastic. There are no doubts that audiences will connect with His House.
Horror films are generally the most trope-filled genres. His House is a new vision in horror that is brilliant and artistic. Weekes gives us what we need from the horror trope world while naturally debunking many of the tropes we easily recognize. Horror fans finally get a new vision, a new story.
The jump scare trope is executed very well. Some of my recent favorite jump scares have come from films like The Conjuring, Sinister, and Insidious. His House can easily be added to the list with classic elements of dark and light utilized to make viewers antsy. Other tropes that are used amazingly well in His House are the vengeful spirit and the constant, lurking evil. But, they are not what viewers will expect, which makes it more entertaining.
The plot point of being a refugee eliminates so many of the tropes that most horror movies gloss over or fix with a clumsy fluke. No cell service, the abandoned place, death by sex, and the “we cannot leave” tropes are solved because of one of the most complicated situations a person can find themselves in. When Black people think of the haunted house scenario, their first instinct is to move, run, get out, good riddance. Weekes immediately answers back with the idea that leaving is an impossible choice. The money, the restricted access to employment and education, and the overall need to stay in the country without being deported are all horrific points that Weekes highlights.
Empathy and fear weave together seamlessly. The audience cares about the couple. The mental torment these characters go through is rooted in a literal and spiritual journey. It is an inspired move for the genre. The struggles and strict rules that refugees may face in a new home, in a new country, in a new city are all acknowledged. While these are all present horrors, the film also touches on the lasting effects that past traumas may have on refugees.
The spiritual effect comes from the Apeth (night witch) story. His House is a sandbag of cultural beliefs, traditional scares, and real-life tribulation. It’s a mix of English and South Sudanese mythology and conventions. Weekes said he pushed them together and waited to see what came out. It’s the commentary on displacement and life or death decisions that elevate this horror film to a new level.
In the Q&A, Dìrísù mentioned how he was proud to be a part of this project because this is still happening to people, even though we do not talk about it anymore. His House is a horror film that is a conversation starter. Weekes explained that it was a conscious choice to take what people tend to not engage with and couple it with a genre people love. It is a real-world horror combined with horror film making. Weekes is drawn to telling a story that is more surreal than straight. Horror has a way of touching people psychologically. You can tell Weekes genuinely loves cinema and is influenced by so many different things. This film will be an influence for so many other horror filmmakers. It truly has changed the game.
The film premiered at Sundance earlier this year. His House will be available on Netflix on October 30.