GORE IN THE STORE
HIS HOUSE ****
Directed by Remi Weekes.
Starring Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, Matt Smith.
Horror, UK, 93 minutes, certificate 15.
Available on Netflix from October 30th.
Fleeing from their war-torn village in South Sudan, asylum seekers Bol and his wife Rial are released from detention into a run-down house on a run-down council estate. Relieved to have a place they can call home again, even though they do not know exactly where home is now, they soon discover that the past they thought they had left behind is not ready to let go of them yet.
From the beginning, we are witness to the fact that Bol and Rial were not the only ones to attempt such a long and dangerous journey. Among the number of drowned victims on their voyage across the sea was their young daughter Nyagak, who sadly drowned. Traumatised, Bol is determined to make his new home permanent and fit in with an all too hostile culture while Rial steels herself for a supernatural reckoning from the past that lurks behind the walls, calling to her and her husband.
Arriving on screen in a timely manner Remi Weekes full-length directorial debut skilfully mixes its ghost story with social issues. His ability in combining the two disparate elements into a cohesive tale makes for what is possibly one of the most socially engaged films of the year as well as one of the most frightening. Before we get to the secret of what it is that scratches and scurries behind the damp ridden walls of Bol and Rial’s new home, we are witness to them being subjected to the uncaring and hostile bureaucracy that sees them not as people but as more of a nuisance they can shuttle around and threaten to take everything away. Such scenes, often with an impressively cast against type Matt Smith, make HIS HOUSE to be one of the most enraging horror films in recent years.
As Bol and Rial, both Sope Dirisu and Winmi Mosaku give compassionate performances that immediately gain the sympathy of the audience. Recently seen in LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, a series that also looked at similar social issues through a horror prism, Mosaku’s steely yet vulnerable performance is every bit as impressive as Dirisu’s, who is nearly unrecognisable here from his recent role as the tough as nails hero in GANGS OF LONDON. The tension that arises between the two as Bol tries to fit in culturally whilst Rial refuses to do so amidst the rising occurrences of the unexplained malevolence attacking them both makes for an exciting dynamic that helps raise the tension.
Weekes direction is visually assured and equally arresting. Capturing the vast differences between the colourful Sudanese village and the walled-off, drab council estate Bol and Rial now find themselves in he also manages to inject more fantastical elements where the native folklore of the characters fits in naturally against the run down environment of a council house living room. More dreamlike encounters such as Bol’s meal at a kitchen table giving way to a sea-bound meeting make HIS HOUSE one of the more visually arresting horrors of the year as well.
It all makes for an audacious and original horror film that captures the topic of immigration in a simple matter that would do Ken Loach proud. It sits proudly alongside Rose Glass’s SAINT MAUD and Rob Savage’s HOST as yet another exciting British horror debut in a year that has proven to be an embarrassment of riches for that particular field.