According to the popular opinion, the popularity of horror films is because thanks to them we can face our fears in a controlled way. In short, we create fictional monsters to deal with real ones. Therefore, the success of the genre lies in finding the right balance between terror and metaphorical tackling of important topics.
This is not something new. Artists have been successful in this craft at least since the ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968). However. It is in recent years that horror film directors have taken a particular liking to emphasize the metaphorical dimension of their stories. They use the cloak of zombie films to talk about the break-up of a family (‘It Comes at Night’ 2017), they present a condition of a women in a patriarchal society with the atmosphere of folk horror (‘The Witch’ 2015) or they take up the topic of racism, ironically looking for the basics (‘Get Out’ 2017). These productions are appreciated by critics and audiences but it’s easy to see that the directors sometimes lose the horror (exception for the examples given here would be ‘The Witch’), which disappears under the multitude of allegories and references. This is not a case of Remi Weekes’ full length debate.
In ‘His House’ is clear from the start that we are dealing with an allegory of the situation of refugees in the UK.
We know little about the main characters. They come from South Sudan. Fleeing the horrors of the civil war, they lost their daughter. Bol and Rial try to make a life for themselves on the outskirts of London. It is not easy, because while awaiting asylum, they cannot take up paid work and must strictly follow the orders of state officials. They get their own house; it has an
infestation of bugs, but they are not their biggest concern. They quickly realise that something has arrived on the islands with them. A mysterious force begins to harass them. The monster taken alive from the legend known to them, tries to force the protagonists to the greatest sacrifice.
After short exposition, the director shows Bol’s first encounter with apeth (also known as the night witch). Since then, the atmosphere has been dynamically thickening. The inhabitants of the house are constantly attacked by new visions. It is very intense until the very end, and we are treated to surreal, horrific scenes. The protagonist is attacked by a group of children, painted figures come out of the walls, and human shapes sneak through the corridors. Every corner of the property is haunted and streaked with blood. Visiting the rooms, looking into their darkest nooks and crannies gives you goosebumps. Subconsciously you know that there is no way to escape from the monster. The heroes are unable to break out of this nightmare, because it is unfolding in their heads.
It seems natural to compare ‘His House’ to Jordan Peele ‘s films.
However, while in the aforementioned ‘Get Out’ or ‘Us’ the threat comes from the outside, so Weekes’s makes her heroes follow a much more introverted way. Using the theme of apeth hiding in the house, the director emphasizes the state of limbo in which his protagonists found themselves. They cannot enjoy the full rights of British citizens. They are still somewhere on the side of society, and they will have to deal with the demons of the past. They are no longer Sudanese, but neither are they British yet. They have to redefine themselves, find some starting point for their own cultural identity. At the same time, they live in constant fear of returning to a war-torn country. The night witch becomes a metaphor for this fear and uncertainty.
Weekes Infuses their story with powerful doses of surrealism, letting us into the minds of the protagonists. With allegorical scenes, It shows the state of their psyche and gradually reveals more sides to it. As the action unfolds, they give us more and more information about their past. The director turns out to be an exceptionally efficient manipulator. From the beginning he makes us sympathise with the characters, only to reveal that they are not that flawless at all. Perhaps they even deserve the punishment that aphet Is inflicting on them. This nuance of Bol and Rial makes us doubt their true faces. Thus, we are dealing with full size characters made of flesh and bone and we are dealing with a very intimate cinema, played in close ups. Nevertheless, the creator constantly expands history with new contexts, drawing us more and more into the presented world.
Racist inclusions are the most noticeable here.
The director shows the behaviour of society towards strangers. Rial, getting lost on the way to the doctor, is afraid to ask white people for the right direction and approaches a group of black boys on the field. They first ridicule her accent and then deliberately mislead her. The characters are constantly exposed to unfriendly glances and even their neighbour tells them to go back to home. Weekes not only extends an accusing finger to the Brits, but also points to the shortcomings of the refugee admission system. During the first interview presented, the officials are bored, they do not even look at the protagonists. They have to deal with the bureaucracy, and the fate of the people standing next to them does not interest them at all.
The creator, however, also looks at officials with sympathy, tries to understand them. Mark explains to Bol that he and most of the people working with him have found themselves in a situation where they never thought they will be. They worked in banks, but after restructuring and relocation of bases abroad, they had to look for jobs in other sectors. Weekes with a passion criticises the insensitive administrative systems and shows their victims. Man is invariably at the centre of the director’s interest. It is a sensitive and humanistic cinema. Full of journalistic theses and comments on the current situation in Great Britain. We are dealing with a socially engaged film, and the presented world is colourful, full of life and ambiguous.
‘His House’ is a horror-style analysis of the situation of refugees in Great Britain and a vivisection of the local society.
And although you can admire Weekes’s debut and dwell endlessly on all the nuances of his film, it is not a production without flaws.
At the end instead of letting the audience draw conclusions on their own, the director uses the mouth of the main character to present the conclusions that we should draw from the story, and it would be much better if we could do it ourselves. And that would not be difficult at all, because the hints are hidden in every scene. In every easy-to-read allegory and metaphor. Even though we may feel a little disappointed at the end, ‘His House’ is a really good watch. And in this one, the sense of danger will not disappear right after the screening. It will persist until we deal with the confusion of thoughts caused by each level of meaning.