When it comes to horror, Netflix tends to be one of the top streaming sites to feature the genre with notable pieces such as The Haunting of Hill House, Midnight Mass, and Gerald’s Game; however, one little gem has managed to slip by the masses, His House. Starring Wunmi Mosaku (Black Mirror, Lovecraft Country), Sope Dirisu (Silent Night, The Huntsman: Winter’s War), the film follows a couple who manages to escape a war-torn South Sudan. The lucky duo thinks they’ve escaped an unimaginative nightmare; however, the couple will soon realize the horrors that await them in an English town. What makes His House stand out from the rest of the ghost stories is the strong message behind it. Too often horror tends to settle for simplistic themes and easy scares. Despite classics such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, or Silence of the Lambs, audiences have understood that the horror genre doesn’t necessarily have the weight and messages that other types of films do.
His House isn’t just some ghost story that cares about the gore or body count. The sharp script superbly tackles guilt, grief, and the ongoing refugee crisis. The film starts off with an attention-grabbing opener, it showcases Rial and Bol escaping the hell known as South Sudan. The scene is actually pretty calm at this point, but it’s clear that these two and their “daughter” are refugees. The reason this opening is so powerful is that it does something that’s rare in horror films; It gives up a reason to gravitate towards the lead characters. They’re stuck in a bad situation, and their only glimmer of hope is their new home in England. The film does a great job of having the audience get to know the characters. Bol is clearly being tormented by his demons that are revealed later in the film, and his wife is simply trying to keep the peace during their dire situation. It should be commented on the fantastic performances of Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu. Both of their roles are giving some meat and both actors carry themselves in top form.
We’re able to see their scars thanks to their subtle body language. The tiny bursts of happiness when they get their crappy new home, to sadness and pain were perfectly displayed by both actors. However, it’s the confident direction from Remi Weekes that makes this such a strong feature. Despite all the supernatural elements, Weekes doesn’t go for the easy scares and actually subverts expectations on many occasions. The choice to be deported back to their war-torn country or remain in their haunted house is arguably the smartest reasoning to force the protagonists to stay put. The film is also beautifully shot. The sequence of Dirisu drifting at sea as he eats alone is not only a feast for the eyes, but it speaks a thousand words. However, the scares are what really make His House shine. This won’t be the scariest movie you’ll ever see; however, the creepy imagery and high tension really help the supernatural elements pop. If there’s one criticism, then it’s the twist that comes midway through the film. As sympathetic as Bol comes off, him kidnapping a child and having her carelessly killed can be a hard pill to swallow. In fact, it actually makes me want to see him get his comeuppance.
I understand the film’s message and the boldness of the storytelling; however, it does make it hard to root for him once that tragic moment is revealed. But that’s what makes the film so compelling in the beginning. These two were so desperate to escape the nightmare that they were willing to do anything for an opportunity at freedom. When pushed, desperate men will do desperate things, and every action has a consequence. The husband’s world is crumbling because of his heinous crime and the wife is living in somewhat of a delusion claiming that the young girl is her daughter. His House is more than just a horror movie. It’s the understanding of how emotional scars can weigh you down. The realization that the world can be a very cruel place to even the kindest of souls. Thankfully, this movie wasn’t a simple ghost story that will give you cheap jump scares; It’s an expertly crafted feature that explores the worst of humanity. It’s a shame that this underrated gem hasn’t been shown the love that it truly deserves. It’s easily one of the best horror movies in the last decade.