The director breathes new life into the horror genre through a compelling story.
Deep within the walls of writer-director Remi Weekes’ His House is a story about how much one is willing to change their persona.
The allegory follows Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), two asylum-seekers who've survived a tortuous journey across the Mediterranean from Sudan. Now in Britain, they’re given a second chance at life after being assigned to low-income housing. But the visceral refugee story turns dark as the horrors of their lives creep into the walls that surround them.
“It goes back to the days of assimilation,” Weekes told No Film School over the phone. “Growing up in London as a person of color, a conversation we had in our community was of assimilation, and how much of yourself do you give up or let go to give in. That’s the crux of the story.”
Weekes evolved the characters and story arc through research, connecting the dots with real-life circumstances.
“Sometimes you have to let go of the more fictional elements in your head and lean on worldwide examples," he said. "You have to have relevance to the real world and be led by fact.”
The director rhythmically blended the refugee experience with the horror genre without losing sight of the turmoil the characters face. The visuals jump between the past and present, mixing Africa and Europe, playing out without confusion, but in a terrifying reality that connects their inner demons with the flat they reside in.
The house breathes and moves just as much as the characters do. With its peeling wallpaper and unfinished walls, the dilapidated state adds subtext to the allegory. Through the production design, led by Jacqueline Abrahams, and cinematography from Jo Willems, it becomes a character in itself, as it’s a symbol of their psyche.
“The film is set in one location and finding new ways to use that location that transforms with the characters was important to us,” the director said. “It had to mirror back to where the characters are at any given time, and using the wallpaper and under walls as a visual signifier was one way we showed that.”
The challenge in post was finding the balance between the horror and the drama, a process that Weekes said was “hard to get right” and “took an incredibly long time to find.”
Visuals aside, it’s the performances that immerse you in the movie.
The director storyboarded sequences and used shot lists, but didn’t treat them as dogma. In fact, Weekes and crew found themselves going in different directions if something better showed up on set.
“I was very fortunate to be able to work with two amazing actors that have a certain pedigree," he said. "I’ll give them adjustments and notes, but I mostly want to give them the space to be open and free with their performance. That’s my primary job as a director.”
His House begins streaming on Netflix today.