The idea of mixing social allegories into horror film tropes are actually nothing new. We already witnessed a few of them in movies like Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) and of course, this year’s The Platform.
Joining them in the roster is His House, which marked the feature-length debut of writer-director Remi Weekes. Using the familiar haunted-house tropes as the base of this film, His House follows two asylum seekers (Sope Dirisu’s Bol and Wunmi Mosaku’s Rial) fled war-torn South Sudan in hope of a fresh start in England. While they made it alive, their little daughter Nyagak (Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba) was tragically drowned during a treacherous boat crossing.
Both of them currently placed in a UK detention centre before they finally granted a place to stay. A rundown council house, to be exact somewhere in London. They even consider themselves lucky enough to have the “whole house”, as pointed out by their social worker Mark (Matt Smith).
As they try their best to adjust to the new surrounding, something is very wrong with the house. This includes everything from a series of strange voices to creepy sounds and ominous figures lurking somewhere within the house.
Horror fans can expect all the usual stuff commonly associated with the haunted-house horror elements. Jump scares happen to be one of them but not the kind of cheap tactic that pops up just for the sake of it. In other words, even the otherwise overused jump scares are genuinely earned and executed, thanks to Weekes’ sure-handed direction. The scene where Bol first encounters the sinister sounds and visions inside the house alone is a masterstroke of how to craft a genuinely scary moment that evokes a sense of goosebumps. While these obligatory scenes tend to get repetitive after a while, it’s hard to deny Weekes’ expert handling on delivering the scares does prove his worth as a promising first-time feature filmmaker.
But what makes His House an above-average horror film is the social-drama underpinnings that deal with the timely subject matters on the refugee crisis, xenophobia and racism. Weekes, who also wrote the screenplay, even delves deeper into the emotional weights of his two main characters, covering everything relevant from survivors’ guilt to grief and psychological trauma for what they have been through. By integrating all of these thought-provoking elements into the otherwise standard haunted-house horror tropes, it helps make most of the scares feel palpable.
The movie also works because of the solid cast led by Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku, both of which deliver emotionally affecting performances as two South Sudan refugee couples trying to start afresh. Then, there’s the economical 93-minute running time, where the pace is reasonably taut and engaging for most parts of the film. Currently streaming on Netflix beginning October 30 onwards, His House is no doubt a great horror film worth adding to your watchlist.