I eyed HIS HOUSE (2020) for a while on Netflix, putting it at the bottom of my list as from the trailer it looked like a “typical horror flick but hey, look, the protagonists are refugees, so there’s your twist.” I love it when I’m utterly, stupidly wrong about a first impression and get a beautiful comeuppance. For me, HIS HOUSE turned out to be a nearly perfect horror film that follows conventions while breaking them in just the right way to create something new.
Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) flee war-torn Sudan with their daughter and end up seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, where they’re hardly welcomed by the authorities and barely tolerated by the locals. They’re assigned a ramshackle house in a low-end neighborhood. Regardless of the UK not being exactly a friendly environment, Bol, tortured by his memories of slaughter, is determined to fit in and make a new life for himself. Rial, meanwhile, is afraid of their new country, doesn’t feel like she can fit in, and suffers from guilt over the loss of their daughter during the boat ride across the Mediterranean. There’s plenty of drama here alone to carry a film, but there’s more–a malevolent spirit is determined to hold them to account.
Starting with a strong focus on story, what follows is a genuinely scary haunting that plagues a couple we very quickly care about and want to win. Their conflict–about fitting in with English society and what to do about the spirit–is genuine and strong. The message about whether refugees should be accepted in a society is organic and left to the viewer without overt preaching. The brutal civil war the couple escaped is as horrifying as the supernatural elements, and perfectly suggested until some great, emotionally charged reveals. The conclusion is very satisfying.
Overall, I loved it and recommend it.