Wednesday, 27 April 2022

His House

The House
That Roared

His House
UK 2020
Directed by Remi Weekes
BBC Films

His House is the feature length directorial debut of Remi Weekes and it’s quite a nice, morally uplifting film, in a way. After some brief footage of the two central protagonists... Rial (played by the wonderful Wunmi Mosaku) and Bol (played by the equally watchable Sope Dirisu)... escaping from Sudan, we get wind that something has happened to their child as they are crossing the ocean to England. We then join them waking up in a holding cell in the UK, being released ‘on bail’ and given a fairly big house (though it’s extremely dilapidated). Their conditions on staying in the UK are that they must not work or supplement their income, which is provided them by the government to the tune of £74 per week. They have a case worker assigned to them in the form of actor Matt Smith (yup, The Doctor himself) and they are told that they need to stay out of trouble, aren’t allowed any guests etc.

However, when the two start to try and fit in and begin a new life in their shoddy but spacious new home, it becomes clear fairly quickly that either the house, or at least some spiritual presence residing there with them, is not all that friendly. So that’s the set up... a haunted house story, of sorts, where the victims cannot leave because, if they do create a disturbance, they are faced with being deported back to Sudan.

And... it’s very well done, actually. There’s a certain atmosphere of foreboding in the earlier parts of the picture which is sustained for just a tiny bit before the director brings on the big scares. This is not the kind of ghost story that focuses on the shadows in darkened rooms... I mean, okay there certainly is a lot of that but it’s coupled with what I should maybe call a more practical, physical manifestation of the supernatural. So what we have is a bunch of ghosts/demons etc seeming to come from behind the walls (which by the end of the picture has loads of holes banged out of it for reasons I won’t get into here) and getting actually quite aggressive. These are not ghosts gently pursuing a suggestion of a soul in a state of unrest. These are aggressive, ‘coming to slash your throat with a sharp knife when you least expect it’ kind of demonic manifestations, for sure.

Now, quite honestly, this kind of practical, hands on approach to the way in which the evil present around Rial and Bol is handled can often kill a film stone dead and, truth be told, the last 20 minutes or so of the movie do seem a little less scary than anything that comes before it but there are some effective jump scares (and a nice double jump scare in one place early on in the running time) that help the movie come alive and are extremely effective.

Now one criticism I did have of it... and perhaps this is a big contributing reason as to why the scares faded away to nothing by the last act of the story... is that there’s a strong suggestion that there’s a twist coming and the opening shot of the movie is a big heads up to that, it has to be said. Indeed, there are a couple of sequences at the end which fill in the blanks and gives more fuller disclosure to the ‘highlights version’ of the trip from Sudan to the UK and, while it’s a nice reason for the hauntings which are manifesting themselves in the house, it does tend to pack less of a wallop than it might have without all that extra telegraphing.

That being said, it does have some good actors in the leads (and, honestly, does Matt Smith never age?) and it’s also aided by composer Roque Banos’ interesting score... sadly not released on CD at time of writing (which is a shame... I like this composer and I won’t now be able to listen to the score as a stand alone experience). There are also some nice touches lurking in the background which help re-enforce the sense of alienation the family are feeling... such as a security guard in a local store keeping an eye on Bol in the background when he’s shopping  or various local kids being pretty much as unhelpful as they could be to Rial when she’s trying to find her local doctor’s surgery.

And, that’s that. A short review perhaps but I quite liked His House and thought that, for the most part (especially the first half of the film), it’s a nicely made scary movie and while I don’t think it’s necessarily a ‘must watch’ for a lot of people, fans of the genre should certainly get something out of it so, if you are into some of the less subtle manifestations of supernatural dread in movies, you might want to check this one out, for sure.

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