The Peanut Gallery Reviews His House
His House adds a few fresh ingredients to the traditional haunted house recipe.
His House is available on Netflix
His House hits home on multiple fronts. It functions effectively as both an atmospheric horror film and an engaging drama with a powerful message. It is far from the ordinary haunted house flick.
The story centers on refugee couple Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial Majur (Wunmi Mosaku) as they seek a fresh start in England, only to be terrorized by a threatening evil in their new home.
The main characters’ trauma, which manifests in several ways on-screen, is at the core of both the horror and dramatic elements. First, it deepens emotional exchanges between Bol and Rial, who both have witnessed unimaginable acts of violence before fleeing South Sudan. The poignant writing is further strengthened by strong performances from Sope Dirisu (Gangs of London) and Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country). Second, it adds another layer of terror to the scary sequences as the paranormal thrills directly relate to the real-world horror the couple have suffered. Lastly, the fact their present plight is linked to their past tribulations makes this variant of the classic haunted house tale that much more compelling.
Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku deliver equally striking performances. Bol is occasionally animated and he is at the center of the infrequent, yet well-placed, moments of comic relief. Rial is sullen throughout and her constant torment is convincingly portrayed by Mosaku. Bol is more ready to accept their new life in England than his other half and is willing to shut the door on their past to do so. He insists on speaking English and using utensils for their meals.
Rial is apprehensive about their drastically different lifestyle and reminisces quite often. Despite her husband’s protests, she frequently speaks their native language of Dinka and eats with her hands. She desperately desires an open dialogue with Bol about their shared trauma, but her efforts are to no avail. The two are at odds with each other for much of the film and this struggle is flawlessly captured by the two lead actors.
Merging genres is becoming a more common practice as time goes on. A combination that filmmakers seem especially fond of is horror and drama. His House not only makes ample room for both, but it intertwines them in a way that enables each to elevate the other. In his feature film debut, Writer/Director Remi Weekes has crafted a multi-genre movie that is blended better than many of its kind.
Though much of the spookiness stems from jump scares, His House has a few tricks up its sleeve to maintain a fresh feel for the most part. The sound design is a major highlight and during the more tense moments, it wisely alternates between eerie background noise (running footsteps, faint creaks, and distorted voices to name a few) and dead silence to create some genuinely unsettling scenes.
The movie also incorporates some very clever camerawork that makes already unnerving segments even more impactful, adding more weight to the drama. Flashbacks of past trauma are woven in seamlessly to the ghostly experiences that Bol and Rial are now facing in their new home. However, these positives only go so far to alleviate the film’s evident reliance on jump scares. By the third act, the thrills grow a bit repetitive. While the fright formula is not varied enough to remain scary throughout, it packs enough of a punch early on to make the duller instances more bearable.
The events unfold in a manner that allows the horror to feed off the drama and vice versa. This can be partially attributed to steady pacing as Weekes maintains a deliberate sense of urgency throughout the tight, 93-minute runtime. The film’s creepier scenes accumulate the appropriate amount of tension but rarely overstay their welcome. After the intended effect is achieved, the film shifts gears back into character-driven drama, which is made that much more potent by the aforementioned terror. This method is mostly successful but does lose some momentum once the frights dry up. Thankfully, the dramatic portion picks up the slack towards the climax and ensures a moving finale.
Bolstered by solid performances from both leads, Remi Weekes skillfully joins gut-punching drama and supernatural horror. His House does not excel in either category, but it does enough well to merit a prompt move-in date.