This Is Our House
Ever since the success of Get Out, there’s been a shift in the horror genre to add more symbology, imagery and deeper meaning to a piece. This is especially evident with Netflix’s latest original film, His House.
On the surface, the movie plays out like a simple haunted house tale, as a family move in to a run-down property and learn that all is not what it seems. Only, the narrative goes much deeper than that and it’s all the stronger for it. This isn’t just any old family moving in; a far cry from the cliched married couple and two kids scenario.
Instead, we follow two South Sudan refugees, Bol and Rial who have fled their war-torn country in the hopes of a better life in Britain. After “winning the lottery” from their detention centre, unenthusiastic realtor Mark shows them the state of their new home.
Furniture is strewn across front lawns, the electrics don’t work and the place is an imposing, inhospitable dump – to put it lightly.
Still, Bol and Rial settle in and try to make the most of things. Between xenophobic neighbours, disdainful pub-goers and mouthy youths, Bol and Rial have a mountain to climb before they even start. With a measly £73 to live on for the week and strict instructions to follow, they do their best to make a new life for themselves.
Only, that’s not going to be an easy ask. A vengeful spirit seems to have followed them to this house after their daughter Nyagak tragically passed on the boat crossing to the UK.
I won’t spoil much more but after a slew of well-choreographed frights, there’s a lovely twist in the third act that completely changes the complexion of the movie.
It’s at this point where the horror bleeds away for a more character-driven drama. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, one can’t help but feel there’s potential to build on some early scares to make this a much more frightening film.
Instead, the narrative finds scares in the apathy of everyday people. Those from the UK will know that the country is very much divided right now (like the US) and the xenophobia toward asylum seekers and minorities (thanks in part to the media) have made this gloomy, rainy country that much darker. This is perfect cannon fodder for this movie to play with.
There’s one scene that really typifies this feel. Midway through the movie, the camera rotates around a trio of youths who poke fun at the way Rial pronounces Church. It’s a really clever scene, one that feels eerily real as these guys poke fun at her and send disorientating and confusing directions to her.
When she walks away, they suddenly shout racial abuse, telling Rial to “Go back to Africa.” It’s such a powerful scene and one that deliberately uses three black British boys to reinforce that message.
Both Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu do an excellent job with their roles, really leaning into the agony and past trauma they cling to for most of the movie. You really feel their agony at every turn and the movie perfectly showcases this.
The claustrophobic setting of the house lends itself nicely to titles like Mother! and there’s a lot of symbology to be dissected here too. Art students and those who like analyzing film will absolutely be in their element here.
The small snippet of our couple sitting and eating together while surrounded by water is a powerful motif of isolation that’s constantly shown in various different formats across the movie. Thankfully this motif is never done in a way that feels overly preachy which is great to see.
His House is one of the better horrors this year, managing to do a lot with very little. While the movie could definitely be scarier, the bleak atmosphere that grips this movie never lets up until the final moments.
If you’re looking for scares, you probably won’t find it in His House. What you will find however, is a scarily accurate representation of the apathy toward refugees struggling to make a new life for themselves in a strange country. And that in itself is scarier than any bumps in the night.