Remi Weekes’ His House

It’s always neat to see a haunted house film that isn’t just about your average middle class American partridge family moving into a spacious New England manor. Additionally it’s refreshing when said haunted house film doesn’t rely on the usual book of tricks, jump scares, possessions, furniture flying around in invisible tornadoes or the usual garble that clutters up story. Remi Weekes’ His House is a disarmingly masterful horror film that isn’t just horror for the sake of chills, it’s actually about something important on more than one level and it’s about as assured, well crafted and terrifying as a director’s debut in the genre could be. The film focuses on a Sudanese couple (Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku) escaping their war torn country and arriving in the UK as refugees, ready to start a new life. They are appointed a slightly scatterbrained social worker (Matt Smith, better than he’s ever been) who sets them up in a spacious yet decrepit council housing unit in a hectic, labyrinthine outer district of London and its here they must adjust to their new circumstances, fit in and heal from the past. The past is key here, because this film is billed as a haunted house flick but there’s this slow realization that whatever is tormenting them isn’t something the home itself has to offer, but something that has followed them across the seas from Africa, a place where the age of reason hasn’t really dawned yet and those nameless fears the West has all but forgotten still abide in the collective unconscious of the people. Soon they hear voices from the perforated walls, whispers in the night, see feverish apparitions and are thoroughly haunted by many spirits, one in particular who knows a dark and dreadful secret from their past that has etched grooves into their already traumatized psyches until they both must face their demons accordingly. This is a terrifying film from a horror standpoint: the scares come fast, fresh and relentless until any minute spent in the house offers a new adrenal stab or potential heart attack inducing scene at any given moment. What really made this film special for me as a viewer was not just the scares, it was *how* this story is told from a narrative, editing, emotional, dream logic and shifting perspective aspect, and if that sounds a bit vague then it is because I don’t quite know how to describe some of the scenes I saw. Much of the film is set in this house but there are nightmarish flashbacks to Sudan and the stormy Mediterranean Sea that are handled in such a uniquely fluid, beautifully creative fashion they really took my breath away. There’s a moment where Dirisu sits alone at the kitchen table against a wall and quietly eats a meal. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, we pan out and as the colour grade slowly burgeons from dull grey to painful ochre red we notice that the kitchen is floating on the ocean… he is in fact dreaming. It’s one of the most wonderful, languid transitions I’ve seen in cinema recently and is alone enough to tell me that Weekes isn’t just a filmmaker to be watched at this point, but already one to be reckoned with. The performances from our two leads are also something special, and overall this film does a very clever, very personal and internal spin on the haunted house flick using dream logic, scintillating perspectives and cerebral fabric to tell a story that gives a voice to humans that often aren’t heard, felt or seen all the time in cinema. A masterwork, and one of the finest films you’ll see this year.

-Nate Hill

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