A hit from Sundance 2020, director Remi Weeke’s feature debut His House is the latest new horror to hit Netflix.
A refugee couple (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Wunmi Mosaku), who have escaped to the UK from war-torn South Sudan, are moved on bail from their detention centre to a house in grim corner of London. But they are not the only ones to have travelled across the sea to take up residence there…
The best British horror of the year, His House gives its protagonists Bol and Rial a powerful mix of nightmares to contend with – PTSD, a relationship collapsing under grief, trauma and guilt, the UK asylum system, and the relentless pursuit of a Sudanese demon looking to harvest their souls.
Unable to vacate the house without being returned to detention (and possibly South Sudan), they are forced to co-habit with this entity, whose dark enchantments bring painful visions of the world they left behind and the sacrifices they made to get away.
His House is also a rebuttal to some of the anti-jumpscare talk that’s been going recently. Weekes manages to produce some terrifying scares, but wields them in the service of social commentary and an unapologetic political stance. Those things need not be the realm of slow-burn dread art-horror – Weekes makes his points quickly and powerfully, while delivering some massive jump-out-of-your chair moments. The closest recent comparison I can think of is another a UK production about two people dealing with a dark force while pinned down in their home by political forces – Babak Anvari’s Iran-set djinn scarefest Under The Shadow.
Mosaku in particular is mesmerising as Rial; no more so than in a scene where she explains her tribal scars to an annoyingly cheery GP: “I made these myself with a knife. There are two tribes where I’m from. They’re both killing each other. Depending on which one you belong to you mark yourself. I marked myself with both. I survived by belonging nowhere.” Her performance is easily one of the best in a horror film this year.
The cast also features Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù as Rial’s indignant husband Bol, increasingly disengaged from her as he closes his eyes to what’s going on around him, and former Doctor Who Matt Smith as their case worker, pretty good in a tricky, morally ambiguous role.
Weekes manages more than one coup du cinema, transitioning from the disintegrating interior of the claustrophobic house to visions of South Sudan or the treacherous sea voyage that brought Bol and Rial to Europe. One shot in particular, starting at the kitchen table and ending in a nighttime Mediterranean storm, reminded me of the grand theatricality of Paul Schrader’s Mishima. This is the kind of unapologetically grand reach, delivered with confidence and verve, that I love to see in British horror.
More from Remi Weekes, please, and more from Wunmi Mosaku!
Available on Netflix from 7am GMT today.