It’s been quite a year for everyone and, somehow, an okay year for movies as well. Sure, the event stuff has been pushed back or dropped on streaming services, but we’re still getting some quality films.
One that I would like to highlight for you is His House, the directorial debut of one Remi Weekes. He’s not a name most would know (I had no idea who he was). He’s done a couple of shorts and some writing, but through what I must assume were awesome pitch meetings he convinced three studios to give him a combined $17m to make this.
Money well spent, in my opinion.
His House is the story of Bol (Wunmi Mosaku) and Rial (Sope Dirisu), a Sudanese refugee couple that escape to the UK. During their crossing they lost a child, Nyagak, and most of their travelling party. The two are, after three months, being released on probation and set up in a shabby home that their caseworker (Matt Smith) tells them is incredible. They have almost no idea where they are, remain trapped in their home under threat of deportation, and find themselves disagreeing on whether or not to cling to heritage or assimilate into their new culture. When a sinister presence begins to make itself known, things quickly begin unravelling as the couple just tries to keep their sanity.
I love this concrete, urban London that Weeke’s has created. So often we’re delivered a fairy tale version of Britain, with landmarks and gorgeous cafes and everything Americans want to think European life is like. This place, however, is dingy and ugly and is a much more honest portrayal of what refugees like this encounter when they land in a new country (according to Weekes).
Setting matches tone in His House, an ugly setting with grief and guilt just out of sight. It’s in the walls, just like the sinister force seeping out of their bug-infested home. The war in Sudan grows ugly and despite their escape it seems to have followed them home. The surprises come hard and fast in the last third of the film and it makes the slower buildup worth the investment.
Besides just a great story, Weekes’s film is full of gorgeous visuals. Every dime of his budget is on the screen and it’s wild. Strange dream imagery, recreations of the war torn Sudan, and even the way the horror sequences in the house are staged make everything an absolute feast for the eyes.
Effort put into the visuals is matched by the incredible performances from Mosaku and Dirisu. The two have the chemistry of a desperate couple that loves each other very much, only hoping to survive the escape. Their histories play out and lend so much sympathy that wouldn’t be there if they were unable to carry the emotional spine of the film. The scariest part isn’t the things in the walls, the ghosts that are spiteful and cruel, but rather the very human violence that they barely survived and has followed them to their new home. Hell, Matt Smith puts in a very quiet and tired performance that still feels full of hope and love even as he rolls his eyes at their beliefs in witches and ghosts.
His House isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s very deliberately paced, it’s littered with enough real world violence to make anyone uncomfortable, and it’s final act is truly horrifying. That said, it’s a brilliant debut film that puts a myriad of uncomfortable truths to the viewer and merely asks them to consider this achingly sincere tableau. Remi Weeke’s is going to be someone to keep an eye one, reminding me of Ari Aster and Robert Eggers from a few years back (seems like an eon ago after this year, I know). It’s worth your time and, I hope, full of ideas worth thinking about.
His House is now on Netflix.