A refugee couple, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial Majur (Wunmi Mosaku) escape from war-torn South Sudan, but lose their daughter in the ocean along the way. They struggle to adjust to their new life in England, treading carefully so as not to lose their asylum seeker status. While the house they are given initially seems to be a blessing, they quickly discover that it is cursed.
'His House' quickly and readily establishes the harrowing circumstances these refugees are running from. The death of their daughter and a man in the room next door to their detention room attempting suicide demonstrates the darkness of the movie from the offset. The officials they meet lack kindness or empathy; but elsewhere, a church offers Bol a hamper and he sings along with some men watching a match in a pub. Rial is less fortunate, meeting some nasty teenage boys when she simply asks for some directions.
The design of the house they live in is big, bare and decrepit. There's dodgy electricity and cockroaches running about thanks to a leftover pizza box. Such a space easily translates to a haunted house; what begins as sounds of the past (gunshots, running and screams) soon turns to haunting visuals, as what looks like the ghost of their daughter stalks Bol.
In its first half, 'His House' features some pretty decent jump scares, for those looking for them. Additionally, the plot and obscure background to the characters have you intrigued. Wunmi Mosaku, known for the series 'Vera' and 'Luther', and Sope Dirisu ('Gangs of London') give strong performances. Mind you, don't expect much from the fact that Matt Smith co-stars as his role is small. The integration of African culture marks another point of interest. Just as 'The Vigil', from earlier this year, has been branded a 'Jewish horror', this could be seen as a 'refugee horror'.
While the film marks an assured feature debut for director Remi Weekes, it gets a bit muddled in its second half. The horror elements take the back seat (limbs still jump out and there are rotting corpses aplenty, but used in a more thriller or drama style now) and its scariest scene comes pretty much right at the halfway point. It gets so weird that the viewer feels lost, and it also starts to feel somewhat repetitive. The twist (or twists, depending on how you interpret it) is a lot. Its uneven nature means the more tragic moments don't quite hit the mark as they should. There are enough intriguing elements overall though to deem it worth a watch.
'His House' streams on Netflix from today, 30 October.