Hooptober 9.0 – His House (2020)

Being Film #15 for Hooptober 2022

Winner winner, chicken dinner. Throw out the term “elevated horror” because usually it embodies theme over scares. I’m all for my horror having something important to talk about, but if you’re using the genre as a platform for your theme, then make sure sure you’re using the genre. In other words, make it scary. His House, the debut from writer/director Remi Weekes working off a story from Felicity Evans and Toby Venables has a lot to say, from the refugee experience in the UK to broader questions about assimilation and loss of cultural identity and the sacrifices some are forced to make in the name of “a better life.” But Weekes doesn’t forget to couch those concepts in a terrifying story about a malevolent spirit seeking payment for the ghosts of sins past. This one’s a knock out, folks. I loved it.

THE QUICK SUMMARY: Bol and Rial, along with the young Nyagak flee war-torn Sudan for a better life. After a tragic boat ride across the English Channel takes the life of Nyagak, Bol and Rial are released on probational asylum on the condition that, among other things, that they stay in a decrepit, shabby house in the outskirts of London. It’s not enough that Bol and Rial have to face outright racism, not only from the neighborhood but from the very system they are seeking asylum in, no. Something has followed them from their past. Something that will plague their dreams and tear apart their new home and lives unless they can figure out what it wants, and if that price is something they want to pay…

At first it may seem like Weekes is pulling too many threads, following Bol and Rial’s experiences while setting up the more supernatural elements at the same time. It all comes masterfully together, and what I really loved about Weekes’s command of the material is that he gives an equal amount of weight to both threads. There’s a formal feeling to his compositions and framing, and even when he uses jump scares (very effectively, I might add), there’s a thematic reason for it. Without giving too much away, sometimes the past can startle you, and as the force threatening Bol and Rial makes itself more and more known, those flashes of horror work on multiple levels once you understand the history and the secrets being exposed.

All the sharp writing and direction in the world won’t help a film until your characters are committed, so if we’re going to appoint MVPs to His House it has to go to the team of Some Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku as Bol and Rial. Their performances break your heart as the film progresses, with Dirisu’s Bol working to fit into this new world at all cost and how his attempt to assimilate and ignore the cost to get here take their toll on Rial, who is desperate to cling to her identity even as she grapples with her part in what it took to get here. This was my first exposure to Dirisu and his presence and commitment is undeniable, something more people need to take notice of. Wunmi Mosaku I new from her terrific performance as Ruby in the short lived Lovecraft Country and her supporting role win Loki, but here she is astounding, working on a level that absolutely crushed me. I immediately want her in everything.

I didn’t even mention Matt Smith is in this, and adeptly manages to not be anything like his Doctor Who character.

His House is fantastic from start to finish, but the way Weekes takes everything and ramps it up for a fantastic climax and devastating ending is the sauce that takes this from really good to an outright great film. Without a doubt one of thew strongest horror films I’ve seen in a while. Don’t sleep on this film, see it as soon as you can.

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