Remi Weekes debut feature film, His House (2020) graced our screens after its Netflix release at the end of October. The film centres around south-Sudanese asylum seekers, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), as they navigate their new home in a dilapidated Essex town. After watching the film I was given the opportunity to attend a question and answer session with the director, where he discussed his creative process, coupe de foudre for film and cinematic inspirations.
It depicts the lengths people will go to to avoid confronting their own ‘demons’, in both the figurative and literal sense
His House is unique in the sense that it centres the immigrant experience, something I was certainly surprised to encounter in a Netflix production, considering their proclivity to finance films that situate within pre-approved cinematic archetypes. The sensitivity with which Weekes examines and portrays the experience of asylum seeking is where the film’s success lies. In a politically volatile time when the most vulnerable in society are scapegoated for the failures of a nation, as evident with the Brexit referendum, Weekes is able to shed a light on the lived immigrant experience.
The film can be considered a horror in the sense that it hosts the horror hallmarks that we are accustomed to, such as bloodshed and the supernatural. However, Weekes intertwines these archetypal horror characteristics with a nuanced analysis of post-traumatic stress disorder. It depicts the lengths people will go to to avoid confronting their own ‘demons’, in both the figurative and literal sense.
Alongside this, the films satirical undertones critique the government protocols that asylum seekers must abide by, scrutinising the questionable administrative processes that they experience in Britain. Ultimately, His House offers audiences a unique viewing experience, one whereby some of the most contentious contemporary issues facing Britain are unapologetically thrust in our faces. The film is as much about the supernatural horrors inside the home, as it is about the horrors that exist within the British cultural landscape that migrants and asylum seekers navigate.
…offers audiences a unique viewing experience, one whereby some of the most contentious contemporary issues facing Britain are unapologetically thrust in our faces
Weekes successfully captures the conflicts of immigrant identity. Throughout the film we observe Bol and Rial being forced to abandon their culture in order to effectively integrate into British society. Weekes subtly weaves this concept within his horror narrative, evident when Bol becomes convinced his clothes are marked and attracting supernatural horrors to their house, and subsequently burns them. Weekes’ use of this evocative visual metaphor to effectively encapsulate the conflict of identity and cultural assimilation faced by migrants, demonstrates the multi-faceted nature of this film. It is not accurately labelled as simply a horror film, much like the filmography of Jordan Peele, Weekes is carefully interlacing quintessential horror motifs with a more nuanced analysis of society.
When discussing the film, Weekes identifies Bol and Rial as the embodiment of these two opposing forces, Bol wants to fit in by any means possible, however, Rial wants to hold onto her history and heritage, and be proud of it. Weekes states these two characters often reflect internal battles he faces around his own identity as a British Caribbean.
In Weekes’ discussion of the film and the industry, he explained his lack of autonomy in making staffing decisions regarding the crew of His House. He claims he was unable to choose the crew he would have ideally have wanted to work with due to the nature of studio power structures. This led onto greater discussions about the diversity of the industry. From his experience, Weekes states that the industry is old and insulated, by its very nature it lacks diversity, and that often makes it difficult to bring new crew members onto set. He believes he doesn’t make his best work when he’s surrounded by old white men. Which forces us to consider what environments are best for non-white and female filmmakers to create in, but also demonstrates that the legacy of studio domination is far from over.
The critical success of His House has propelled Weekes toward becoming a pivotal figure in British horror
When discussing his inspirations Weekes explains that the notions of propriety, honour and revenge in east-Asian horror have had the greatest influence on his work. He cites his favourite filmmaker as Alfred Hitchcock, however, expressed concern that when you are a minority in an art form you have to accept that many of your heroes are going to be white.
Weekes’ claims the fact that horror allows the ability to crack into the mystery of life, and make it somewhat more surreal and strange, is what drew him to the genre. Horrors ability to create a communal sense of fear among an audience allows for stories that remind us the world isn’t cut and dry, its peculiar and strange. Weekes’ expresses that for black and brown filmmakers, the affinity they have to horror is often because they are perceived as the outsider.
From the discussion with Weekes it is clear that integral to his creative processes, are his lived experiences and the cinematic influences of his youth. The critical success of His House has propelled Weekes toward becoming a pivotal figure in British horror. Whatever his next project, it will be met with eager anticipation
In article trailer courtesy of Netflix via YouTube.
In article image courtesy of hishousenetflix via Instagram. No changes made to these images.
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