His House (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A refugee couple under insidious influence

Netflix film “His House” is a modest but undeniably effective horror flick which turns out to be more than your average haunted place tale. Gradually dialing up its level of creepiness along its story as required, the movie comes to reveal more of its dark and harrowing center full of real human horror and trauma, and we are often captivated by this terrifying process even when we are not so sure about the increasingly unstable and isolated viewpoint of its two main characters.

They are Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) and Bol (Sope Dirisu), an African refugee couple who has been in a detainment facility in Britain for a while since they managed to enter Britain. While they were fortunate enough to escape from their country which has been ravaged by a civil war, a tragic incident happened while they and many other refugees from their country were trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and the opening scene implies to us that they are still struggling with that traumatic moment. When Bol wakes up after having a very bad nightmare, he lies to his wife about what he has just experienced in his sleep, but he cannot fool her at all, and she does not ask more.

Anyway, there soon comes a seemingly good news for them. When they are later brought to the supervisors of the detainment facility, the supervisors flatly notify to them that they luckily get an opportunity to live somewhere outside the detainment facility. Although they will still have to go through the evaluation period which will determine whether they are eligible for citizenship, both Bol and Rial are glad to see that they may finally settle in Britain as they have always hoped, and they are certainly willing to go along with those rules and restrictions to be applied to them during the following evaluation period.

They are subsequently taken to a suburban neighborhood not so far from London, and then they meet their case worker in front of one of many identical houses in the neighborhood. As looking around here and there inside the house along with their case worker, Bol and Rial see more of how shabby and dirty the house really is, but Bol remains optimistic about getting settled along with his wife, and Rial does not seem to have any problem with that at all.

And then we see their tentative attempts to get more accustomed to the alien environment surrounding them. They can speak English fairly well, so they have no problem with buying food and other stuffs they need, and they even receive some generous help from a local church. In addition, Bol happens to have a little nice time with several local residents as watching a sports game together, and that makes him believe more that everything will turn out to be all right for him and his wife once they pass the upcoming evaluation period.

However, strange things begin to happen around them right from the first night in their new place. Bol happens to hear strange sounds from a hole in the wall of the living room, and then he finds himself gradually obsessed with finding whatever is lurking behind the wall as experiencing more strange things during the following nights. He often sees entities looking quite insidious, and it seems he and Rial are surrounded by something quite bad, but he tries to hold himself while not telling much to Rial.

Of course, it does not take much time for Rial to realize what is tormenting Bol, because, well, she has also witnessed those ominous entities just like her husband. When they later have a little dinner together in the living room, she tells him about a certain evil supernatural entity she once heard about, and she also suggests that entity in question has targeted them for getting what they are bound to pay in the end.

On the surface, Bol does not seem to believe his wife’s words much, but he becomes more pressured from both inside and outside, and the movie accordingly gives us a number of tense and spooky moments as expected. Yes, it is quite possible that what Bol and Rial are experiencing is simply the manifestation of their shared trauma and survivor’s guilt, but the screenplay by director/writer Remi Weekes, which is based on the story by Felicity Evans and Toby Venables, gives us some subtle signs signifying to us that there are certain things from which Bol and Rial have desperately looked away, and we come to wonder more about their supposedly supernatural plights.

The movie becomes less baffling and mysterious than before during its third act where everything in the story makes sense nicely, but it is still held well together under Weekes’ competent direction, and his two lead performers are convincing in the small and big changes in their characters’ relationship along the story. While Sope Dirisu ably handles a number of emotionally intense moments which are entirely based on his acting ability, Wunmi Mosaku effortlessly complements her co-star at every step, and they are one of the main reasons why the finale works with considerable emotional resonance.

On the whole, “His House” is scary and entertaining enough for recommendation while also making some little sharp points on its social issues, and I appreciate how it pulls out a surprisingly touching moment during the last scene, which will make you reflect more on not only what its two main characters have gone through but also the very title of the movie. They finally have accepted what will never go away from them, and you may be glad to see that they come to find some peace for themselves in the end.

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