Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism
Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) managed to come from Sudan to the UK, and finally their time in the detention center is up, at least on a probationary basis. They are given a rather ramshackle house with their case worker Mark (Matt Smith) insisting how lucky they are – not even his house is that big. But as if adjusting to their new life wasn’t difficult enough, Bol and Rial soon realize that there is something wrong with the house, just behind the walls.
I was really impressed with His House. It’s not often that horror movies actually scare me, but this one certainly did. But it’s not only scary, it’s also a thoughtful examination of the horrors that are part of fleeing a country and settling in another.
I was expecting a story that is more about the difficulties of being Black African refugees in the UK in the face of the inhuman asylum system and the casual and not so casual racism that refugees have to face. And the story does touch on that. We get microaggressions in the way Mark and his colleagues comment on the size of the house (despite its abysmal state), but also outright racism. We get dispassionate officials rattling off long lists of what Bol and Rial have to do just to be further considered for actual asylum status, while not even telling Bol and Rial in which city they will be living.
But the real horror here is not the racist welcome that Bol and Rial get, it’s all the suffering they have already brought with them. It’s everything they had to do to survive – and then their guilt about surviving. There is no way to start a new life with that kind of baggage, hard as you may try.
The horror here is obviously very symbolic, but it is also highly effective. There are a couple of jump scares that I know people often frown upon, but I find them personally very effective, when well-done and not the only thing that the film has to show for itself. And His House definitely has more to offer. The visuals, the sound and the timing are just spot on, and I found myself glued to the screen, dreading the next moment.
Coupled with Dirisu and Mosaku’s perfect performances and the unusually direct way the supernatural is part of this otherwise very realistic setting, His House really is a quite literally breathtaking film and a fantastic debut for Weekes.