In His House, Sudanese refugee couple flee their war-torn home country and, against all odds, manage to cross the sea—leaving the past nightmare behind. Upon reaching the UK as asylum seekers, they are granted a house as a means of a fresh start, a new beginning. However, when a malicious force lurking inside the house tells them otherwise, they are torn between clinging to the past or moving on to the new life.
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Sope Dirisu (Humans) portrays Bol, who tries to assimilate with the locals; meanwhile, Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country) portrays Rial, who tends to cling on their home culture. When their probation officer (Matt Smith, Lost River as well as the eleventh Doctor Who) assigns them a run down house that will make do with their clean-slate goal, an evil force tries to intercept them. The thing is, due to the applied procedures and restrictions, moving out of the house is impossible if they’re to be granted permanent residency.
That’s just how the world works. In one part of the world, people are eager to kill each other mercilessly for an abstract thing called power. On another part of the world, some other people, who have the capability to help those in need, won’t give such help easily. There’s where newcomer, Remi Weekes, elaborates the narrative of His House from the story written by Felicity Evans and Toby Venables as a poignant commentary for asylum process in the UK. Oftentimes, the government resorts to severely harsh rules for the asylum seekers, e.g., not allowing them to find job, leave the area around the house, or bring people over to the house among other things.
The housebound condition alone is already a rich source of horror stories. Weekes doesn’t shy away to bring a ghoulish parade around to cramp the already cramped house with breathless terror. Jump scares are available, even if it’s never the movie’s best suit; but, the real source of terror is the house itself that has somehow manifested almost like a standalone character. Added with the asylum policy, the terrors double down.
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Similar housebound problems have previously been showcased in Babak Anvari’s British-produced horror, Under the Shadow (or New Zealand crisp thriller, Housebound).And yet, Weekes’ horror isn’t just plunging to follow the steps. His House incorporates a pivotal element that makes the story highly grounded to the community it represents: survivor’s guilt. “Your ghost follows you,” Bol exclaims—explaining the murderous force that haunts him. The horror roots from where it started: the place Bol and Rial attempt to leave behind.
This is where Rial’s roles in the story become more comprehensive. Her mind refuses to forget what’s been left behind as she keeps practicing old behaviors—dining on the floor without cutleries, speaking her native tongue, wearing vibrant and traditional clothes. She finds it difficult to blend into the new community; even she’s get lost in a seemingly endless maze just by walking down some British lanes. Rial believes that a sinister spirit has followed them all the way from their country to claim what belongs to it; in this case, it’s the house. While her paranoia juxtaposes with the story’s important revelation, the whole thing stems from her guilt and her coping to the fact that she’s survived while others didn’t.
What makes His House much satisfying is the way Weekes balances the dramatic elements with the social commentary and presents the blend seamlessly into a grounded horror. The result is a haunted house horror that works on multiple layers. It’s a clever, painful horror reflecting the bleak side of survivor’s guilt among asylum seekers.