This jolting fusion of immigrant drama and supernatural horror turns a scuzzy British council flat into a crucible of grief, half-buried trauma and skin-crawling frights. That sense of incongruity makes it all the more striking: imagine Mike Leigh’s Paranormal Activity and you’re halfway there.
His House is actually the work of Remi Weekes, a British writer-director who marshals his original idea with real freshness. His film’s central characters, asylum seekers Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) and Bol (Gangs of London’s Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù), arrive in Britain to find themselves allocated a grimy, run-down council house in a forbidding estate in some unspecified part of the UK. The pair have escaped the brutal civil war in South Sudan but something terrible has happened on their 3,500-mile journey by land and sea. Its repercussions lay over the film like a fog.
Carefully framed as two individuals whose united front has been eroded by their circumstances, Rial and Bol are often alone as all kinds of supernatural malevolence is visited on them. It’s a lonely-feeling film and Weekes seeps in a sorrowful sense of alienation among the jumps and shocks. While it’s a cliché to say it, the house is a character too: a neglected, forbidding space that Bol picks at until its bones are showing. It’ll put that fleapit from your twenties into perspective.
The supporting cast provides a clutch of unsupportive characters. Matt Smith represents the surly, half-interested face of British bureaucracy as a social worker who leaves the couple to fend for themselves, while a curtain-twitching neighbour (Vivien Bridson) gazes disapprovingly on. The subtext is pointed: here’s a society that demands integration and assimilation. And that denies the couple any chance to achieve either.
A miasmic creepiness settles over things (hello scurrying figures behind plasterboard walls), but His House is just as impactful in its quieter moments. In one, a domestic tableau of Bol at his kitchen table is suddenly inserted into a violent storm at sea – the constant tug of past trauma on efforts to start afresh captured in one haunting motif – and in another, Bol is shadowed by shop security as he browses for a shirt. Anguish comes in many different forms in this scary and sharply realised tale of dislocation.
Streaming globally on Netflix from Oct 30.
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