HIS HOUSE, directed and written by Remi Weekes and starring Wunmi Mosaku (“Lovecraft Country“) and Sope Dirisu (“Gangs of London”) is a thrilling mixing of mystery, psychological, drama, and horror. For many films, I love when a variety of genres are present because it should embody multiple genres like people embody multiple emotions. There is no all and when the mix is stirred as deliciously as this film, it helps significantly. It’s a film that shows the horror of being a refugee, with the guilt of the past and the fear of losing oneself when we are forced to assimilate into a new world and culture.
HIS HOUSE follows a couple, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), who have fled war-ravaged South Sudan to make their way to safety in Britain. Once they are released from a detention center housing refugees and given a house to reside in as a test to see their “one of the good ones” who deserve to be granted asylum, evil begins to lurk inside their house.
There are a lot of similarities between other movies that tackle issues particularly relating to race. However, typically movies that deal with racism, cultural displacement, and assimilation take place in the USA. Here we have a unique situation where we can notice the differences between both country’s handling of refugees as well as the tragic but common similarities in relation to racism and microaggression. Even people who appear to want to help can be subtly resentful equating value with race and nationality.
The acting by Wunmi Mosaku as Rial is particularly noteworthy as she balks at assimilating while Bol quickly attempts to embrace their new surroundings and people. Once scary things start to happen in their house including spirits lurking in the house, there is added fear both because of the spirits but also because if they appear to not be “one of the good ones” they will not be allowed to stay.
The ghosts are scary and the fact that they lurk in holes in the wall in the dilapidated house they’ve been given and should be grateful for makes it impossible for them. The music heightens the fear and it leaves us wondering what happened and if it’s their guilt that is manifesting. Creepy ghost staring at you and jumping around in the dark would compel anyone to leave all lights on in their home.
The fear builds but the house is not fully the problem, although a house and a home are different. A house is just a building, a location, and a home deals with the interconnection between the house and the people who live in it.
HIS HOUSE does a great job of giving us a glimpse of the refugee experiences in Britain. It further gives us questions about assimilation, culture, and a sense of displacement. Refugee displacement is different because the person is already seen in a negative light so the effects of trying to become acclimated in foreign surroundings are compounded by the looks and treatment they are subjected to by the locals.
In the end, HIS HOUSE leaves us thinking about how many came before, how many are going through it right now, and how many will go through this in the future. It raises questions of whether and why assimilation can mark refugees as one of the good ones when it has little to do with character. This film will scare and leave the audience thinking, and feeling bad because a lot of what’s here isn’t confined comfortably to just a movie, but lives outside of the screen, lurking in our countries, like an evil spirit.
HIS HOUSE is now available exclusively on Netflix.