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John’s Horror Corner: His House (2020), a cultural thriller and an unconventional haunting.

May 30, 2021

MY CALL:  This film is composed of great “everything,” yet the sum of the parts just misses the mark for me. In any case, we find great performances, inspired ideas, unnerving atmosphere and a grounded sense of trauma. That said, I am more impressed with the possible future of this director in the horror genre than his debut film itself.  MORE MOVIES LIKE His HouseFor more cultural thrillers try Them (2021), Spell (2020), Spiral (2019), Parasite (2019), Get Out (2017), Us (2019) and maybe even Lovecraft Country (2020).

Sudanese refugees Bol (Sope Dirisu; Black Mirror) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku; Lovecraft Country, Black Mirror) are granted a probationary life in the United Kingdom, so long as they adhere to a strict set of rules or risk deportation back to the war-torn country they escaped. Their new home is a wonky, sizable but dirty fixer-upper. But it’s their new home, safe from their past, and they’re grateful. Short of being friendly, their critical case manager Mark (Matt Smith; House of the Dragon, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) is optimistic of their success with this transition and wishes them luck and happiness.

Shortly after their movie-in, strange sounds in the guts of the house lead to some disturbing moments and shocking imagery. Meanwhile both Bol and Rial are haunted by their harrowing past every bit as much as the house itself. As they both feel like they’re going mad, Bol willfully assimilates to Western life while Rial clings to their cultural heritage.

I’m picking up vibes from Girl on the Third Floor (2019), We Are Still Here (2015) and Them (2021). The imagery spans various zombie-like entities as well as traces of poltergeist-like (including Javier Botet; Mara, ItThe Conjuring 2REC 4MamaThe MummyCrimson Peak, The Crucifixion) hauntings and trancey fever dreams.

Helming his first feature film, director and co-writer Remi Weekes has made a solid film which I estimate was meant to marry the horror film genre with the true horrors of refugees haunted by PTSD. But truth be told, this just didn’t work for me. The cast did well, the direction and editing seemed solid, the visuals were good and some highly creative… but I just didn’t care for this film. I never found myself investing in the characters (even though they were definitely interesting and well-performed), or the story. The revealed horrors also always felt a few steps dialed down from the intensity that seem targeted. I chalk this up to filmmaking experience.

So I’d say see this film not because it is a great horror film—I feel it falls well shy of that. But judging the whole instead on the merits of its parts—the cast, characters, story, visuals, individual scenes and very unique horror device—I’d instead say see this film as the makings of a soon-to-be great filmmaker. Weekes already has a gifted vision; that much is obvious. Somehow, I think a little more experience will find greater synthesis in his future projects. I’d also call this a strong recommendation for fans of the Amazon original show Them (2021).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2021 4:30 pm

    Excellent review and puts into words my thoughts on this movie. Most of the reviews I read about it sang praises but I just couldn’t get into it. I wanted to like it, have tried three times to watch it, but keep turning it off. Yet it’s eerie and the acting good, and taking all the parts separately I’d say they are wonderful. It just didn’t come together for me either. I’m glad someone was able to relay why.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      May 30, 2021 4:37 pm

      Tony, I “started” writing this review weeks ago and simply couldn’t conjure a comprehensible opinion. I opened the file every 4-7 days, stared at it, and came up blank. Somehow this just struck me, and it is exactly what I latently wanted to say the whole time.

      I get why people are raving. Weekes has vision, and he told his story through a powerful cultural lens. No one wants to say it wasn’t good. But it was good. Moreso, the “parts” were fantastic. Such is the taxing creative toll of the weekend movie reviewer. lol

      • May 30, 2021 6:49 pm

        It might have been taxing but the end result was right on the mark.

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