By Madalyn Watson | Editor-in-Chief
In the horror genre, there is always a reason the family cannot leave their haunted house. Whether that be from financial and environmental reasons or pure stubbornness, the characters always feel trapped.
Throughout the film, we follow a young refugee couple as they struggle to adapt to life in England after they fled their war-torn home in South Sudan. After finding themselves in a detention center for asylum seekers, Bol and Rial Majur (Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku) are shuttled to a shabby townhouse to await the verdict.
Wracked with survivor’s guilt, the couple is told they cannot work and cannot move from the house until they find out if they can stay in the country. Even though they find themselves in a home infested with bugs, the couple tries to build a home while remaining hopeful for the future.
But secrets lurk just beneath sheets of wallpaper peeling from their walls. As they realize there are more horrors left to be unfurled, Bol is determined to look forward and move on in their new environment while his wife holds on to their culture and tries to confront their horrible past.
“His House” is a very effective horror film. With high tensions, disturbing visuals and alarming sound design, this film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January only to be released on October 30 through Netflix succeeds in what it sets out to do.
The film considers the harrowing experiences of refugees, survivors’ guilt and how mental health is perceived in the system. Even without the specters and jump scares, “His House” is a terrifying look at the horrors that exist in real-life.
With a devastating backstory and a realistic relationship, Bol and Rial garner sympathy and possibly even empathy from the audience. Their characters are excruciatingly realistic in part thanks to the story and screenplay as well as outstanding performances from Dirisu and Mosaku.
“Doctor Who” and “The Crown” actor Matt Smith is surprising in his role as Mark, the couple’s caseworker who is somewhat sympathetic to their sorrows even as he laughs at their claims that their new home is haunted.
Even though the pacing of the film slows down and remains stagnant at some points, the story is enthralling enough to keep audiences wanting to know more. Without giving too much of the plot away, Bol and Rial fold back the layers upon layers of guilt and horror that eat at them, eventually coming face-to-face with the ghosts that followed them on their journey.