His House has a bold mission. It is clearly a horror movie, trying to scare with intense visuals and ominous demonic presence through some great scenes. The other aspect is the political commentary, shining a spotlight on the plight of asylum seekers and refugees in Britain. As noble as trying to do both of these things are, it suffers from doing each of them averagely, never really achieving either aim properly.
You get an idea of how well the asylum seeker spotlighting could have been done with the opening of the movie. The film sees married couple Bol and Rial, played by Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku respectively, being housed by the government in a less than accommodating estate. The house is sparse, the provisions poor and the advice very little, with Matt Smith playing the faux-caring social worker perfectly. From the beginning, you are on the side of this pair, particularly as it becomes apparent that they lost a child on the treacherous journey across the channel.
It isn’t long before the horror within the house makes its presence known. As with all “haunted house” movies, the scares are subtle and small to begin with, but as the film progresses, they become more and more visually striking. The “small child” spirit, which plagues Dirisu’s Bol, is particularly effective and there are some fantastic moments of horror which work to unnerve and chill rather than relying on “jump-scares.”
To its credit, the horror element is not as simple as a “haunted house.” There is a mystery at the core of His House which is told well over the the movie. There is reason for the horror and the fact that Bol is being plagued while Sope seems unaffected, or perhaps willing to ignore, the events. This is followed up by a third-act reveal to the mystery and the reasons behind the horror, which is both effective and worthy of the mystery but also heart-breaking and difficult to get beyond.
These elements all make His House an engaging watch but you can’t help but feel more could have been done with both the social commentary and horror aspects of the movie. There are some very scary moments and some great visual effects but it never leans enough into the horror to be truly effective in this area. His House spotlights an aspect of the plight refugees must face when seeking asylum in this country, and it is difficult to watch, but there still feels like much more to this story than the film manages to present. It isn’t that it should have focused on just one or the other, but perhaps taken slightly more care, and subsequently time, with both.
Overall, His House has some important messages to convey and does this using some effective elements of horror. The plight of the asylum seeker in Britain is highlighted well enough, and the horror is unnerving at times, but neither really fulfils their remit. The central mystery is a good one though and you will be engaged throughout.
Rating – 3.5
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