By Bradley Lane
First-time writer and director Remi Weekes’ film His House begins with a refugee family fleeing from war-torn South Sudan and making their way to the UK. However, in the process Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) lose their daughter to the perilous motorboat ride through the English Channel. After being granted probationary asylum into London they are subjugated to government housing where they must prove their ability to assimilate and contribute to English society or risk deportation. It is in this house that Bol begins to experience a residual evil presence from their home that made its way into their new house.
His House functions on two levels at nearly all times; there is what is happening literally to the characters as they experience both casual racism from those around them and a supernatural haunting and secondly, the allegorical subtext of the film. To start with, the literal level is downright scary. The emotional tension between Bol and Rial begins as painful and slowly warps into something tense and at times supernatural. This tension is expertly created to simmer throughout the entire runtime leading to a third act reveal that, while predictable, is still shocking even if you know it is coming.
However, what is far more interesting is the subtext Weekes weaves into his ghost story. From the very beginning it is evident Weekes is using a horror lens to investigate modern repercussions of Western colonialization and imperialism as well as the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. The horror elements that in other films would just scare you and move on, slowly reveal themselves to be reflections of the real-world consequences of European colonialism in Africa. However, it wasn’t until after I saw the film that I did the research necessary to fully grasp the messaging of His House. Weekes is making observations and assertions about, at least in part, the British invasion of Sudan in the late 1800s that has had lasting impacts that continue to affect the region to this day. The most obvious of these effects has been the decades of civil war and instability in the region that has caused the refugee crisis Britain and the broader scope of Europe continue to struggle with today.
If that sounds too intellectual for you, I want to make it clear while this subtext has led me on a journey of discovery, the film is most focused on the human costs of these geo-political forces. This focus on the personal leads to a final shot that hasn’t left my thoughts since I first watched the film almost a month ago. What Weekes has accomplished in his first feature film is astounding and shows incredible promise for the young filmmaker and it would be wise for audiences to take note immediately. His House is currently available to stream on Netflix. -4/5 stars