'His House' filled with great pace and tension

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A horror film that works both as a great set-up for jump scares and as a dark, poignant commentary on the UK immigration system (and immigration in general), Remi Weekes’s “His House,” available on Netflix, is the perfect thriller for this time. I came into this knowing very little about it and I can honestly say I was blown away.

After fleeing from South Sudan, Rial and Bol Majur (Wunmi Moskau and Sope Dirisu respectively) are eventually given asylum in a dingy house in London. However, they realize their new home is inhabited by ghosts, particularly their daughter Nyagak, who died on the trip.

The film does a great job at exploring different perspectives of dealing with culture. Bol tries to assimilate with the English people. Rial does the opposite, holding onto their cultural practices. Bol, stubborn, initially denies her actions and claims of ghosts as crazy, but he is in fact even more so haunted, particularly by the spirit of their daughter Nyagak. 

The performances of Dirisu and Moskau are excellent, both fleshing out distinct personalities for the characters. As Rial and Bol are the only two characters throughout most of the film, they do well at interacting with each other and absorbing the audience into their environment. Just with their eyes, each can get across the feelings of isolation, disorientation or just fear in general.

The jump scares are also great. There’s a balance between those and slow, building tension, and there’s several of them. While some movies (not all) use them as a cheap tactic, here they only make the film more exhilarating, inducing the same fear in us that we see in the main characters.

The visuals deserve credit for this, as well. Director Remi Weekes finds new, inventive ways to show that these spirits live with them, such as shadows running across walls and eyes filling holes in the house’s walls. 

Sometimes, a large chunk of the wall will be open and a body will be shown sitting there, half-lit. Other times, the audience sees directly into the characters’ psyches. One shot in particular looks like it could have come straight from an abstract painting. I used to always think “CGI Bad, Practical Good,” but both have strengths and Weekes blends them seamlessly.

What I feel makes “His House” work the most is its pacing. From the very beginning, where Bol and Rial leave Sudan, the movie goes at breakneck speed and never stops. While some scenes are of course slower-paced to build tension, every scene moves the plot forward, building on the tension of the last. This is likely due to the fact that it’s only 93 minutes long, which doesn’t leave any room for filler. While I would’ve liked it to be a little longer, this is probably what Weekes intended.

The only thing I think could have been changed is the last scene, in which the characters directly explain the theme to their case worker (Matt Smith). I think it’s pretty easy to figure out what the message is from the start, which is why I didn’t say it here. But aside from that, everything’s good.

Overall, “His House” is excellent - it’s frightening, visually-intriguing and intelligent. It currently has a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 62 reviews. I don’t know if it’s 100% worthy, but it’s a testament to how good it is.  I definitely recommend watching it on Netflix in-between studying, but judging that Netflix lists it as “#4 in the U.S Today,” you may already have.

 

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.

 

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