Streaming review: “His House” (2020)

“His House” (2020)

Drama / Horror

Running Time: 93 minutes

Written and directed by: Remi Weekes

Featuring: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu and Matt Smith

Rial: “My mother used to tell me a story.”

Rial: “In our village, there was once an honorable but poor man who wanted a home of his own. He wanted it so badly, he began to steal from others. One day… he stole from an old man who lived by the river. He didn’t know that this man was an apeth. A night witch. And so the thief could not know that when he built his home… the apeth, too, would live there. So, before long, the walls would whisper the spells of the apeth. From the shadows… the dead would come. The apeth would not stop… until he had consumed the man entirely.”

Rial: “An apeth has arisen from the ocean. It has followed us here. It spoke to me.”

Available to stream on Netflix now is the Horror/Drama “His House” (2020) the debut film from Remi Weekes who won a BAFTA for this and well deserved as there is much more to this film than my meet the eye, especially when just reading a synopsis. In fact there are multiple themes which to the writer/directors credit never feel muddled with a narrative that may be challenging for some but for open minds this will be a richly rewarding film that begs to be watched multiple times. 

“His House” is a mix of genres, it is most definitely a drama but it also has parts of the horror and noir genres built within it, which brings forth some very frightening scenes as well as setting up a third act ending which may or may not be obvious depending on the viewers experience with both genres. Like many great horrors “His House” asks the viewer to inhabit the skins of both protagonists while at the same time it is revealed that they both are unreliable narrators of their own and each other’s stories particularly around specific events. It is possible to not know what has occurred until the third act reveal although with the events unfolding it has to be asked is what we are witnessing real or in the minds of the two main characters. 

“His House” is based around Bol and Rial who are refugees fleeing with their daughter, Nyagak, from war-torn South Sudan. They brave stormy waters on an overcrowded motorboat, along with fellow refugees traversing the perilous English Channel from France in search of a better life. Although they survive the treacherous crossing, their daughter and many others do not. When they are finally granted probational asylum in Britain three months later, the government assigns them a shabby house with peeling walls and dismal furnishings on the outskirts of London. They are given strict restrictions or they may face deportation. They experience racism and hatred from their tenement neighbours. They are met by their case worker Mark, who tells them he hopes they are two of “the good ones.” From this point on within the house they are living in seemingly supernatural events start to occur and Bol and Rial have to ask themselves what is happening and how do they stop it. I am not going to go into spoilers here but if you go along with what is happening and start to interrogate the events it will become obvious especially within the final parts of this film. 

Written and directed by Remi Weekes in his first film, “His House” grips you and never really lets go, it is a masterclass in developing a story and then constructing a narrative around it that is original but never strays into pretentiousness which it easily could have. This film is so well put together it is difficult to believe that this is Weekes first film, it takes some very horrific but simple events and ideas, turning them into something that would cause such guilt that it manifests itself physically at time when it seems like the characters have gotten away and are safe in a location that is a million miles away from where they began, however that’s when their troubles really start. 

In the lead roles are Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu who are excellent in their roles as Sudanese refugees who have survived a genocide and are new arrivals in the UK. Both actors are as believable as could be and have appeared in many roles on stage and on screen, always the highlights of whatever they appear in. Here they have to convey a lot to the audience, not only are escaping their own county but they are both haunted and have PTSD from their previous experiences, they are harrowing roles and not once do you doubt their veracity. What I also enjoyed was that they relied on each other a lot and it seemed natural and genuine, I was absorbed at every turn as what actually happened them is revealed. These are complex roles with motivations that are honest even though they remain hidden for much of the movie. 

On the surface “His House” may seem like the characters have PTSD from all they have experienced but this is coupled with incredible feelings of guilt about what they have done to survive not only what happened in the Sudan but what happened to them since they left their on the journey to the UK. In fact “His House” is all about surviving and the lengths we will go to so that we and our family do just that, but it is also about the fallout of the choices we make to survive especially after some pretty significant and unbelievable events such as a genocide when people do unthinkable things to other people. Both Bol and Rial make some conscious decisions so that they live and in a way the bill comes due when they think they are safe, their only hope is to reconcile what they have done with the damage they have caused and this literally happens in and to the new flat they find themselves in. 

This is simply a brilliant film that deserves to be seen and would make a welcome addition to any collection, it is available to stream on Netflix and demands to be seen.


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