Director Remi Weeks’ debut feature His House has been one of those rare horror films that dared to step out of the cliched comfort zone of its genre while successfully being a true portrait of the refugee experience. When it comes to the latest serving of horror films, most have been circling the same tropes, exploring a cliched story, and more often than not, failing to strike the terror they touted to possess.
But Remi Weekes debut feature His House has proven to be one of the rare gems that managed to breathe fresh life into this done-to-death genre. His House follows the story of a South Sudan refugee couple, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku of Lovecraft Country fame) who escape their war and violence-wracked homeland to seek asylum in the U.K. Already battling with the grief of losing their daughter during the perilous journey, the couple is then left to bear the prejudices faced by immigrants when they are relocated to a small English town.
As they try to forget their traumatic past and adjust to their present, a life-ending danger enters their life, threatening to snatch their chance at a fresh start. A supernatural evil makes its presence known and torments the couple to the point that they have no option but to relive their suppressed memories and face a harsh truth. Weekes fashioned His House in a way that it’s not only genuinely spooky but also a heart-wrenching peek into the life of immigrants with the hope that it “creates a conversation.”
“Generally what happens when you’re a fan of any kind of art form is you can love it but also be aware that the people inside the film don’t really share your same references, or that the faces in a scene aren’t the people you spend your life with. I think probably for me I want to tell the same scale of story and employ the same type of experimentation, and spectacle to create conversations that may be more relevant to my life. So this film for example creates a conversation about assimilation and how much of yourself do you let go to fit into a new world.”
Even though His House is Weekes’ first feature film, he has bypassed expectations and presented a cohesive story that terrifies and strikes a chord at the same. For the director himself, making the Netflix film was an “overwhelming experience” that required him to delve deep into the treatment meted out to asylum seekers.
“During the development of this film we did a lot of research on the first-hand experiences of asylum seekers in the U.K. and people from South Sudan. When we were doing the research one of the things I found particularly interesting, which began the journey of the film, was that when you claim asylum you’re given accommodations, given a house, but there’s a really draconian rule that you’re not allowed to leave or go to a different house. You have to stay put. And you can’t get a job. You’re given a small allowance. So for many people claiming asylum it can be traumatizing. And that was the center of the film.”
And that’s what gives His House its merit, Weekes’ honest insight into the tragically real human lives, the despair that threatens to cripple them, and the hope that keeps them going. This interview was first published by Hollywood Reporter.