HIS HOUSE. (2020) DIRECTED BY REMI WEEKES. BASED ON A STORY BY FELICITY EVANS AND TONY VENABLES. STARRING SOPE DIRISU, WUNMI MOSAKU AND MATT SMITH. ©
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘He’s big, he’s red, his feet stick out the bed: Peter Crouch…!’
This moving and deeply disturbing horror film is as much a searing indictment of the refugee system in Britain as a study in psychological and actual terror. It’s the story of a young-ish married couple from South Sudan, a country beset by civil war since 2013.
Their names are Bol and Rial, and a frightening flashback shows us that they came to Britain by boat, a boat that got into difficulties en route, causing some of the passengers to drown. When we meet them again, they’re being held in a British detention centre for refugees.
The staff there treat them like criminals. They barely tolerate them and are rude, offhand and dismissive towards them. What happens at the meeting to inform the pair that they are going to be ‘freed,’ as if they’re prisoners who’ve committed actual crimes, is uncomfortable to watch and a disgrace on the part of the British case-workers. And just look at the physical distance between the refugees and the case-workers! It kind of says it all, that yawning chasm of floor.
They’re getting seventy-four quid a week (each, or jointly?), they can’t supplement this in any way, whether by working or whatever, they can’t move somewhere else, they have to live only in the house they’re assigned to and they have to report regularly to the people in charge of them, as if they’re prisoners out on bail or on parole or something.
No reassurances, no words of comfort, not so much as a smile or one friendly word. Just, you’re free to go but, if you fuck it up, back you both go to the Sudan, and we don’t give a fiddler’s feck how bad it is over there. For shame, you heartless bureaucrats. For shame.
It’s a wonder they don’t actually say to the poor couple, you can have sex, but you’d better not get knocked up or we’ll send you back to the Sudan. We can’t afford to be funding your lifestyle or your offspring, so keep it in your pants, okay? So very patronising, rude and intrusive.
Next thing you know, Bol and Rial are packed onto a bus in the lashing rain and driven to a dump of a house in a kip of an estate on the outskirts of London. They haven’t even been told where they’re going. Matt DR. WHO Smith plays their social worker or case-worker, Mark. He meets them at the house with the keys.
Mark really hates his job and has no love for his clients. Here you go, he says, don’t light any candles, don’t smoke, don’t make a mess, this is your home now. The couple aren’t hugely impressed by the house. It’s filthy and rundown and surely to God someone could have been hired to give it a bit of a clean up for the new occupants.
The neighbours, even the black ones, are racist and hostile towards the couple. Go back to Africa, yell the local black boys, much to the couple’s bemusement. Why should people be so horrible and cruel? Don’t people know what they’ve been through?
Bol adapts and adjusts to English life much better and faster than poor Rial. It’s because he likes it there, and wants to be one of them, one of the English locals.
He gets a haircut (they still don’t know where they’ve been put living, so Bol has to ask the barber!), he sings footy songs down the local pub with the local men and he’s given a care package by the local church. He buys new cheap clothes and cutlery for their food.
But poor Rial! She can’t, or won’t, adapt in the same way as her hubby. She still wants to sit on the floor for meals and eat with her fingers. She still wants to wear the colourful clothes of her homeland and adhere to its traditions, customs and mannerisms.
Added to this obvious conflict within the marriage, it’s starting to become clear that there’s something very wrong with this house they’ve been assigned. (‘It’s bigger than my house,’ says one of the social workers grudgingly when Bol makes a complaint.)
Strange noises, apparitions and voices come from behind the walls, lights turn themselves on and off, shadowy figures appear and murmur to the occupants and that’s not all…
The viewer quickly works out that it may not be the house itself that’s at fault, but rather that Bol and Rial have brought something back with them from Africa, a demon that feeds on guilt and demands vengeance for a crime committed, a life stolen.
Just what is it exactly that Bol and Rial are running away from, and what have they done that they are being plagued by demons in their new home night and day…?
It’s one of those horror films where you end up asking yourself, which is the real evil here, the supernatural demons we can see on the screen or the way we treat our refugees?
It works really well as either a horror film or a social commentary, or the two rolled into one if you prefer. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t like having your conscience pricked during a horror film, there are plenty of ghosties and ghoulies in the frame to thoroughly distract you.
The man who plays the lead demon or ghost in this excellent movie suffers in real life from a very interesting but unnerving condition called Marfan Syndrome. It’s made me wonder if other actors in horror films like IT FOLLOWS or the BLAIR WITCH sequel might have had it too. No, I’m not saying any more, you lazy lot, you can google it yourselves…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.