Starring Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu and Matt Smith
Directed by Remi Weekes
Rating: ** ½
Having recently seen the finest film on the migratory experience Adu(to which I gave a 5-star rating) His House seems pretty tepid in comparison. The setting is London where a discernibly bereft Sudanese couple Bol and his wife Rial arrive as illegal immigrants. Immediately they are whisked away to a dilapidated house in suburban London which would serve as their new home provided they behave themselves.
It’s hard to be the ideal obedient immigrant when the walls of your new home are filled with the shrieks of ghosts who have come to haunt Bol and Rial for their sins in the past. It takes us a good 90 minutes to get to the couple’s actual guilt which threatens to tear their mental equilibrium apart. While both the actors Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisuare attuned to the screenplay’s need for drama within the given milieu of normalcy, they are unable to take the awkwardness out of the narrative.
More interesting than the ghouls who haunt their house are Bol and Rial’s migratory experiences in London. In one such incident Rial loses her way on the streets of London and asks a bunch of black boys some direction.These boys are the same race and colour as Rial. But they are Londoners with British accents who look down on the refugee experience and heckle Rial and her accent.
It’s a harrowing sequence brimming over with a snarling indignation. Whenever the director loosens his hold on the horror of the couple’s experience there are interesting sidelights on the story telling. In an early sequence Bol wakes up from a nightmare when his wife asks him what he was dreaming about. He says he was dreaming about her.
“That explains the screams,” Rail chuckles.
Sadly the film losses its warmth and humour as it progresses. We are soon left with a chilling plot about nasty ghouls stalking the house with murderous intentions. I get the point about the impossibility of leaving behind one’s past transgressions. But the film is far too heavily burdened with macabre manifestations of guilt, and the second-half of the eerie narration seems to owe a distant debt to Darren Aronofsky’s Mother. That, let me tell you, is not a good place to be in.
I found the film’s scares to be more oppressive than intimidating. And the estrangement between the couple cause by the spirits in their home is just as abrupt as their final decision to be the “good” refugees that they are required to be. This in theory, means Bol can’t rip open the walls of their adopted home to find the ghouls.And Rial would have to stop mourning for her dead daughter.
There isn’t much to be said about the submissiveness that the characters are subjected to , when in fact we the audience are also expected to submit to a certain code that the director puts forward.Do not make a fuss if you want to stay in an adopted country.Do not get noisily frightened . This is not film about crying out loud. Remain calm. There are are forces at work that you may distract.