A movie’s premise is important in obvious ways, more so for me, because there is nothing, I hate more than a great premise being squandered on an average or bad movie; likewise, there’s nothing that will get me as excited as a great premise being done justice by a great movie. Thankfully, His house is the latter; a great and timely premise that meets an unrelenting horror movie that is as poignant as it is horrifying in all the best ways. I really loved this movie and I’m going to spent the rest of the article gushing over it.
His House is about a refugee couple, trying to adjust to life in an English town, after a horrific escape from war-torn South Sudan. Like all great horror movies, His house is not about the spooky ghosts and monsters that haunt them; it is about the characters and what those monsters represent. However, with something as relevant and important as the current situation in South Sudan, the crew had a difficult job balancing nuance and not pulling punches with their messaging, alongside horror and supernatural elements, and I feel they did a fantastic job; its not perfect by any measure and there are a few standout moments where they dropped the ball on this specific issue, but overall, its fantastic work, especially considering this is Remi Weekes’ first feature-length movie.
Let’s talk about Remi Weekes for a bit first; he’s excellent. The movie oozes with a great sense of style, some influenced by imagery that combines the horrific and exotic, this filthy touch to everything that makes the movie feel dirty, the great setting up and framing of each shot; visually he is excellent, but the narrative is not left by the waste side. The story is deeply impactful and is not afraid to call out certain topics or to be very aware of itself and play to its strengths. Some will find that corny or too earnest, but personally it hit me right where it needed to and scared the crap out of me, so I can’t complain; beyond the allegories and themes, the character work is exceptional as well. It’s not as unique as the thematic content, but it is as well done and as memorable; I loved Rial’s journey, but Bol is a captivating character; their journey is harrowing and grounded in reality, but their woes are not done yet, no matter how much they want them to be. However, their current troubles are supernatural and deeply personal in a way that no one would believe them or care enough, which the movie clearly defines is what would happen with shady remarks; whatever they went through, it was to escape, not to go back.
Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku are both the reason their characters work so well and why the movie eventually succeeds; you believe their struggles, but more importantly, the gratefulness they feel to be in England and be given a chance at citizenship. This is where Bol’s character, in particular, excels at; he will hang out at a pub and start singing football chants with other regulars just to fit in, and will not confront anyone about their ludicrous-sounding problems because he will not have gone what they went through to go back. Where others see a broken house that is still “bigger than my flat”, Bol and Rial see a chance at a new life; but there is an uneasiness between them that slowly seeps out. They know what they went through and slowly that begins to affect them individually, but also as a couple who lost someone important to them on their journey. There is a fine balance between the “real” and “supernatural” elements that the movie wants to maneuver in and the great writing and phenomenal acting is what allows it to do so.
Audiovisuals are a mixed bag; as I’ve mentioned, the filthy look this movie has and the monster designs, as well as camera movements and framing for both dramatical and horror effects are top notch. But audio is something that goes unnoticed completely; for sound design that is the desired effect, but for music that’s not something to be proud of. I do think that the soundtrack could have elevated moments and scenes even more, but sadly it does not.
Regardless of the lackluster music and occasional “on the nose” writing, His house is a fantastic horror movie and a premise that as soon as you hear it you’ll go “that sounds so natural” and fortunately they deliver on it. I’m excited to see what is next for most of the crew and I’m glad Netflix still is willing to bet on interesting and ambitious concepts from relative unknowns; sure, we’ll get a few stinkers, but we’ll also get great movies from time to time.