Netflix Movie His House Questions Answered - this film is crawling with metaphor, meaning, and purpose. But without digging, we can't know.
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THiNC. is a website that has evolved into being to talk about interesting movies that are beyond your standard Disney fare. We go out of our way to find complicated movies, with interesting screenplays, that just aren’t the standard Hollywood material. And today, I’m super excited to finally get a chance to talk about His House – a really fantastic spin on the well-trod haunted house trope. So, yeah, let’s do this: Netflix Movie His House Questions Answered!
If you’ve never heard of the new Netflix film His House that released today, October 30th, 2020, it tells the story of a couple attempting to escape from war-torn southern Sudan. They win the lottery of all lotteries, and they arrive in England as refugees. They are given a home, a small stipend, and they try to adjust to this wildly new country they’ve made it to. But, there is something else going on here… some horrible malevolence that is there just beneath the surface. And there is no hope for them to run. They are stuck here, in this place, and they are going to have to find a way to survive.
With that, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’d ask you to pass on reading the rest of this discussion. Mainly because there is one, really glorious – if heartbreaking – spoiler here that is totally worth being surprised by. Now, if you would like to watch it, but your google-fu isn’t so good, here, I got you… watch it right here. You are welcome. And with that, let’s get started shall we?
His House Walkthrough
Man, this movie is fantastic. Generally, horror films will go right where we expect them to go. Innocent kids, and not so innocent kids, are intrigued by XYZ McGuffin. (No! But we shouldn’t go there, do that, touch that charmed bracelet that we found on the seashore. No! We can’t break into that abandoned church! OH, we definitely shouldn’t stand around the mirror and chant blood Mary’s name over and over again. Demons will haunt us for the rest of our lives. And then said demons haunt them for the next 60 minutes of the film (or less, depending how quickly they die.) And then, as the hell spawn hunts them down they learn to regret that sad decision they mad early on in the film. But now? It’s too late). But with His House we get something entirely new. Utterly different. We are given characters we care about. We are given back stories. We are given real terror, crossed with real life chaos and dilemmas. It’s a truly different spin on the Haunted House film idea. And I’m here to give it two thumbs up.
His House opens with Bol, Rial and their daughter Nyagak running for their lives in Southern Sudan. Tribal chaos has broken out and it’s obvious that they are fleeing for their lives. But the movie makes it pretty clear that we shouldn’t know much at all. Instead, why don’t we accept these two for who they are, individuals in need of refuge status and a simple leg up in order to start their lives over again. And after a troublesome journey they make it to London. Well, Bol and Rial do anyway, we don’t know much about Nyagak. She is decidedly absent, and the viewer is just left to expect the worst.
The England government puts the couple up in a town home. (Row house? I think that is what they call them in England. Or maybe I seem to remember that they might call them Terraced Homes? Anyway, you get the idea.) And they should be infinitely happy. Why? Because they’ve been given political refuge status, they’ve made it to one of the greatest cities in the world. (It’s literally my favorite city in the world… no other town compares.) And they’ve some how gotten a home that is downright palatial compared to what other Londoners have. They are blessed beyond all measure. But, there’s a catch. They will be given 75 quid a month, and they are required not to leave their home. They have to check in regularly with the state. They are expected to stay there and await regular check-ins and other audits. But hey, it’s London. This is all doable. Bol and Rial can do this.
Almost immediately after arriving in their broken down apartment, things literally start going pear shaped. Bol begins seeing things. But not wanting to unhinge his wife, he says nothing. But he shouldn’t worry…why? Because she’s definitely seeing them too. One day, after taking a rare chance to get out, purchase a couple things to fix up the place, Bol returns home to find his wife having set out dinner on the floor. Which creates an intriguing, and highly complex conflict between the two that requires you to understand a bit about African cultures and customs. Generally speaking, in Africa, a more traditional dinner setting will be had on the floor, propped up. It also means eating with your fingers – and some sort of bread type thing to be used to sop up and sponge the food together. Actually, eating with your fingers is such a big deal that if you’ve washed your hands for dinner, you actually avoid touching someone else. Bumping elbows is a standard greeting to avoid making your hands dirty. But silverware just really isn’t normal.
OK? So, Rial is reclining on the floor. She has buns as their bread component of the meal (instead of naan), and she’s worked hard to make something nice. But what does Bol say? Maybe next time we can eat at the table. Oh, and he also fetches silverware. Rial says, I can’t taste anything but the metal…and Bol responds with, you’ll get used to it. Right off the jump, we see that the struggle over the course of this movie is going to be with Bol desperately trying to fit into this new culture and world. And Rial is totally of the mind that there is nothing to fit into here. She’s certain that their old cultural habits are perfectly fine. This couple though has much bigger fish to fry than whether they are going to choose to use silverware or not. Trust me on this one. And yet, this unsaid argument is also at the heart of this deeper problem that is festering between these two people. “We will be new here.” “We will be born again.”……
In one of the most chilling moments of the film, Rial stops, and tells Bol a story that her mother used to tell her. She tells of a man who so badly wants a home of his own that he begins to steal from others. And unwittingly, he ends up stealing from an apeth in the town – a man that was actually a night witch. And eventually he gets his home, but in the home, the walls would whisper the spells of the apeth. From the shadows, the dead would come, and this apeth was not going to stop until he had consumed this man completely. Now, Rial tells Bol, “An apeth has arisen from the ocean, and it has followed us here. It spoke to me and said that we don’t belong here. And if we repay our debt, it will guide us back to her. To Nyagak.” Now, personally? Wunmi Mosaku rocked this moment. It was so chilling, so perfect. And it really gave me pause. I thought to myself…what does she know that I do not. (Yes, there is something in the movie that she knows that I don’t…that isn’t what I meant. I was more talking about philosophically, and even metaphysically. You know? Yeah, neither do I.)
As they try to settle in, a number of things go wrong for these two people. Rial gets lost looking for a doctor, and she is humiliated by school boys. Bol begins seeing things in the walls, and the wall paper spontaneously rolls off the wall. When kids outside throw a ball at the wall Bol flashbacks to the violence of Sudan. And when Rial is asked by a doctor about her tribal scars on her face and arms she responds with, “These I’ve had since I was a little girl – and these I gave to myself when I found family butchered.” So yeah. There is something horrifying from her past, lingering just below the surface. And we watch as drip by drip, it all begins percolating up into the visible world.
Eventually Bol has had enough. He has tried so hard to soldier on. To continue to try to be accepted in this new land. But his wife? Oh, she is doing her very best to ruin his good efforts. And so he snaps, grabs everything from the old world, including Nyagak’s doll, his clothes, and his wife’s necklace that she made from their daughter’s doll, and burns it all. Then later, Rial is baffled as to why Bol doesn’t wonder what the apeth has been saying to her. But he isn’t curious…he just thinks his wife has been staying cooped up in the house far too long. Eventually though she tells him that the apeth says she can get Nyagak back. And that she should be afraid of her husband.
Regardless, Bol has had enough. He’s done. He decides he’s going back to the refuge overseers (what are they called in England… I literally have no idea what they would even call them in America. Bureaucrats? Anyway.) and he asks, as politely as he can, for a different house. They are rounded on, laughed at, and dismissed. Worse, the men decide they are going to come and do a house visit to see for themselves what is going on. But remember? Bol has been making some minor adjustments to the house over the past few weeks as he was hunting for the apeth that has come for them out of the ocean. The place was bad when they got it, it is now much, much, much worse. It looks as if Bol was playing a massive house-wide game of whack a mole. And he lost. Bol realizes immediately the trouble he is in, and begins begging for these men to not send him and his wife back to Sudan. “I’ll fix it, I’ll repair the damage! Please don’t report me!” And he has them. He is 100% convincing, and has them where he once them. Until Rial walks in and says…and this is so brilliant. “Have you told them about the witch?” They stare at her inquisitively, “Yes, there is a great beast in this house. My husband has been chasing it about all night with a hammer. It knows great magic. It’s filling this house with ghosts.” Wait, WHAT? Bol had told them about the ‘vermin’! hahaha. The WITCH!? hahaha. So rich. Rial is just done. Absolutely and completely finished with the messing about.
After they leave, things go from crazy to full-on insane. Bol decides no one is leaving the house, and no one is coming in. He hammers off all the door handles, and nails the doors shut, etc. Then he sits in their living room and tells the apeth to show himself. Eventually, the apeth talks to him, and tells him that his life is not his own…that he stole it. That Bol must repay what he owes. That Bol’s life should be sacrificed in exchange for Nyagak’s.
Rial then stabs Bol with a screwdriver, locks Bol in a room, then beats her way out of the house. And as she steps outside, something funny happens. She’s not in London anymore. She’s back home in Sudan. It’s the happiest of happy reunions. There are all her old friends, and there are the children. Everyone is crying and laughing, and ululating in celebration. What is going on here? What did I miss? More to the point – why is this important? But eventually, we hear Bol in the distance shouting for Rial, and she comes out of a cupboard, and we realize the previous segment was all a fantasy. We see the women all butchered in the classroom. And it is then that I realized that we had jumped backwards in time to just prior to the start of the movie. This is the atrocity that caused them to flee. They better go find Nyagak! Hurry! But they don’t. Instead, they head straight for the buses that are trying to help these people who are in very real danger, and to get them out of the village as quickly as possible. We have though, a very real life boat philosophical quandary on our hands. These people manning the doors of the bus are charged with making a horribly painful choice. Those that stay, will die. Those that get on board, might have a chance.
The Ending of His House Explained
Okay, look. So far, we have been subject to a pretty interesting story. It’s a random haunted house movie, filled with plenty of jump scares, and enough dread to sink a ship. It hasn’t had anything really terrifying happen. Nothing REALLY mortifying anyway. Until now. And it’s mind alteringly scary because everything we thought we knew about these two was wrong up until now. These are two polite African refuges who could have been hacked down with axes and AK-47s if they hadn’t fled. We get it. Terrible. I mean…we don’t get it. None of us will ever “get it.” But we understand what we have on our hands. We don’t though, and it’s all because of this moment. So what did we not know about Bol and Rial?
Well, as the two are standing at the bus’ door – Bol is demanding to be let on. But the gatekeeper isn’t having it. She is not letting anyone else on. Doesn’t matter. Not happening. But she might be moved for a child. Children might be able to fit. And as far as philosophical dilemmas go, she in good standing…I mean, if the Titanic is precedent at all. Anyway. Bol, in that moment, gets a clever idea in his head… AND GRABS THE NEAREST CHILD TO THE DOOR. Wait, what? Oh, you didn’t catch that? It’s okay, let me go slower. Nyagak. Is. Not. Their. Child. And as the woman at the door realizes the couple has a young daughter, she lets all three onto the bus. The ploy worked. Save for the fact that Nyagak is screaming bloody murder, and worse? Nyagak’s mother is chasing after the bus, screaming as well. This is horrifying.
Wasn’t it the final episode of MASH where we go through the entire episode thinking that a woman murdered her piglet in order for the piglet not to make a noise and give up their position to the North Koreans? Only to find out at the end of the episode that the piglet was actually a baby? This reminds me of that level of terrifying. Now. Let’s reevaluate what we currently know about Bol and Rial. They are haunted. What by? An apeth. What’s an apeth? A night witch. A witch that is out to terrorize a person so out for personal gain that he steals from others to get what he wants. Yes. Now we understand what is going on here.
Bol and Rial are the ones who stole. They stole a young girl from her mother in the middle of a chaotic uprising in order to save their own skins. If you have studied the aftermath of the Titanic, the men that made it onto the life rafts really had a lot of explaining to do. It did not go well for them on the stand, or worse, in the court of public opinion. And that is similar to what is happening here. Bol has abandoned all moral decency. It is truly one of the most unconscionable things I’ve ever seen on film. And yet, I’d consider it. And you would too. Which is why it is so scary.
Now that the other shoe has finally dropped…the ending barrels to its natural conclusion. We hear the apeth talking through the walls of the house – telling Bol and Rial that he is able to give her back. He only requires the blood of Bol in return. All Rial has to do is to “sever his flesh,” to give the apeth his body. But Bol has already cut his arm, and is already bleeding. He’s already decided to sacrifice himself on behalf of Nyagak and his wife. Rial though, she won’t have it. She drops Nyagak’s imaginary hand, and steps towards Bol…and in the moment we all know that Bol is saved. Rial is refusing to let the darkness overtake them. And as the movie ends we see images of Nyagak standing with countless other dead. And we also see Rial and Bol surrounded by the memories and friends from their past. “Your ghosts follow you – they never leave. They live with you. But it is only when I let them in that I could face myself.”
It’s a surprisingly uplifting message for such a thoroughly dark story. The ending basically means that it is only through our embracing of our dark pasts that we can really heal, and overcome the chaos of our past. But when we deny the pain of our past, push it away, we will never truly heal.
Final Thoughts on His House
I could keep writing about this movie without pause. And yet, I’d still be able to keep going. For example, I still would love to dive into the tribal unrest in Sudan. And the historical details there that this movie is obliquely emphasizing. I’d like to discuss the mankind’s perpetual attachment to blood, and society’s fascination with its ability to pay life debts (and maybe even a Jewish and Christian word or two on the topic as well.) I’d also like to talk about our debt to the dead and our struggle to have survived something they did not. There are enormous topics about racism, international inequality, the United Nations and inter-tribal strife, the Killing Fields, and on and on. There are so many possible lines of conversation here. But maybe you should just join our Patreon discussions that we have been raucously having over on our Discord chat server instead. To do that, it’s pretty simple, you start by going here. But until then, I’m just going to say that this was one hell of a movie, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Really thought provoking. So, yeah, come join us amongst the land of the THiNC.er Patreons and let’s keep the conversation going.
But it’s safe to say that I absolutely adored this movie.
If you would like other movies like this one – sorry. There are none. But, maybe tangentially relatable movies would be films like maybe The Lodge? The Devil All The Time maybe? No no! Better yet (no, the movie isn’t better than The Devil All the Time…just a better comparison) would be Amulet!