Cast: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith, Javier Botet, Gamba Cole. Director: Remi Weekes.
There’s an old adage that ghost stories are never really about ghosts, they’re always about something else. Usually, they’re about guilt. The Sixth Sense, The Haunting and The Changeling are all perfect examples of this, and now Remi Weekes’ debut film His House.
His House follows two South Sudanese asylum seekers Bol (Sope Dirisu) and his wife Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) who are put in a horrible house just outside London awaiting to hear their judgement on if they’ll be allowed to stay or not. What happens in the house is more to do with their own actions than any other.
Weekes shows a level of confidence that few debuts have, with the horror genre it’s about timing, and how long you can last between big scary moments. Like so many other debuts in the horror genre recently this is a film of subtext and substance. It calls to mind what Guillermo del Toro said of his film The Devil’s Backbone that he wanted the ghost story to be a metaphor for the Spanish Civil War and the Spanish Civil War to be a metaphor for the ghost story. Here we have a film that explores what it means to be a refugee, and hiding from something that follows you everywhere.
Weekes alludes to the abuse that refugees face in the UK and smartly doesn’t make it a race issue, the UK isn’t as obsessed with race as the US but it is obsessed with nationality. A scene in which Mosaku is mocked by three Black British boys for her accent and told to go back to her country is well played and shot and manages to set up this issue we are currently facing, that our nation wants to the UK for itself and not for others.
There’s an important line in the film about facing your ghosts and defeating them that is well played and explores this idea that only by facing our actions can be overcome them. The slow reveal of why Bol and Rial are being haunted is both emotional but also deeply upsetting. Weekes also has an eye for horrifying visuals, a sequence that sees Bol accosted in a room by zombies is truly haunting, but even more subtle scares like someone breathing in a wall is really well done. There’s surrealism in the film, the past and the present folding in on each other.
In the role of Bol, Sope Dirisu is magnificent, last seen knocking heads together in blood soaked series Gangs of London here Dirisu shows his range as an actor, him trying to blend in with British culture in a pub is a well done scene of levity and shows that he wants this new life badly. Dirisu is a British actor who should be on the top spot of everyone’s list when they come to casting the new 007 frankly. While Wunmi Mosaku as Rial is also compelling. Mosaku was most recently seen as outgoing singer Ruby Baptiste in Lovecraft Country there is such a line and difference between the two performances you would be forgiven for thinking they were not the same person.
What the film does is to take two subjects that could both form their own narrative, and explore what connects them. The culture of our heroes is rooted in their plight, and this makes the ongoing struggle and unknown issues they face in the house and outside compelling as well as distressing. In this, His House proves to be a moving, but also jump-out-the-bed scary film that might prove to be a returning favourite among horror fans.