A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that His House is a 2020 horror-drama in which a young refugee couple from South Sudan discover that their new apartment in England is haunted. Expect both horror movie and war violence. Monstrous-looking demons appear and disappear inside and outside the walls of the apartment, replete with scary sounds and jump scares. One character stabs himself in the arm with a large knife, creating a large wound and blood. Woman stabs man in the thigh with a screwdriver. Attacks with a knife. In flashback scenes, two main characters shown escaping their South Sudanese village as it's being attacked in the midst of a brutal civil war. Characters shown getting shot by machine guns. A man on fire stumbles down the street before falling to his death. Dead bodies piled up inside a classroom. A young girl drowns on a boat bound for England. A woman talks of finding her family butchered to death. Young girl shown screaming for her mother as she was one of the last to get on a bus escaping her village. Woman encounters racism while trying to find a doctor's office, is told by teens to "go back to Africa." Cigarette smoking. Drinking in a pub. Infrequent profanity, including "f--k."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In HIS HOUSE, Bol and Rial Majur are a young couple from South Sudan trying to begin a new life in England. They escaped the horrors of the civil war in their South Sudanese homeland, and while refugees in England, they hope that they're on the path to citizenship. One of the conditions of attaining citizenship is that they're to live in a dilapidated apartment in London to wait out the time until they may be granted citizenship. Upon arrival in this new apartment, they soon discover, in addition to the garbage in the yard and inside the building, something seems to be lurking in the walls. Strange noises occur at all hours. Demonic apparitions seem to appear. Rial soon believes it to be the work of an "apeth," or witch, who is offering them a trade: If they allow themselves to be taken by the demons, the young girl who journeyed with them from South Sudan who died of drowning when their boat capsized en route to England will get to live again. While Rial sees this as a sign for them to leave England, Bol is determined to stay and to stop the demons from haunting their new home.
Is it any good?
His House is a refreshingly thoughtful and poignant horror-drama. It's refreshing because so much horror these days is lazy and cheesy, with paint(splatter)-by-number stories that all start to seem the same, or are just some idiotic "Part 87" sequel of some long worn-out franchise. In His House, the "haunted house" story is a way to explore the plight of refugees, the challenges of trying to adapt to an alien land, of trying to make a fresh start in life, of the ghosts of the past that can haunt our waking and sleeping presents. It's not an easy thing to mix the realism of a newly-arrived refugee getting lost in the streets of London while trying to find her new doctor and the magical realism of the recently dead peeking through the walls of these same refugees from the walls of where they have been sent to live. Often, blends like these are clunky and heavy-handed, but it works here.
Furthermore, unlike most horror movies where the audience is given just enough about the characters to make them likable or unlikeable enough to derive entertainment value out of their survival or brutal murder at the hands of their tormentors, the two main characters are fully developed -- human, flawed, survivors -- to the point that you want them not only to survive, but also to prosper in their new lives. The growing divide between Bol, a former banker who is determined to put his past behind him and start again in England no matter what, and Rial, a former teacher who sees the emergence of the "apeth" (witch) in their apartment as a sign to leave their strange new country, adds another layer of conflict, made all the more engaging as more and more is revealed about their relationship and their pasts. His House should be welcome viewing for those who have grown beyond weary with the phoned-in hackiness of so many horror movies these days.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror movies. Many horror movies have a kind of "paint (or splatter)-by-numbers" quality them in that they all seem to follow the same formula. How is this movie different?
How is this both a drama and a horror movie? How do the two connect?
What do you think are the deeper messages the movie is trying to communicate, in terms of refugees, immigration, how it can be bittersweet to leave the past behind, and the difficulty of trying to move on from one's traumatic past?
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