THIS is a review of two movies about haunted houses for those who look for Halloween film fare: “His House” and “You Should Have Left”. “His House” is available on Netflix and is about a migrant couple from the Sudan, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and his wife (Wunmi Mosaku), who flee from their war torn country to search for a better life in Europe with their daughter.
They survive the stormy crossing but their child died while on board an overloaded boat. After three months in a refugee center, they’re given probational asylum in England. They’re given their own big but dilapidated apartment in a series of row houses in an obvious government housing project.
Soon, strange things happen. Lights turn off or on by themselves, they hear voices, wall papers peel off and reveal holes on the wall and other strange things. Rial says it’s because a witch from their village, called apeth, has followed them to torment them and won’t stop until they repay their debt, so Bol has to dialogue with the witch which reveals something bad Bol did in their past.
“You Should Have Left” is from Universal Pictures released digitally because of the pandemic. It’s about an American couple and their daughter who take a vacation in this remote house in Wales. Theo (Kevin Bacon) is a former banker married to an actress, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and their daughter is Ella (Avery Essex, a very good child actress), who has noticed that people dislike her father.
Soon, they all begin to experience having bad dreams and Theo sees that someone wrote a warning on his journal saying that they should leave right away.
Ella asks her mom why people is averse to her dad and Susanna explains that her dad had a first wife who drowned in a bathtub. An investigation showed that he is innocent of anything nefarious about it but people still believe that he has actually killed her.
Theo drives to town, which is about four miles away, to buy some bread and other supplies. The store owner tells him that the house is dangerous and he should measure the right angles on its walls. Theo doesn’t understand what he means and is left bewildered.
Theo is jealous of Susanna and her leading man called Max and when he discovers that she has another phone she conceals from him, he concludes she is having an affair and asks her to leave the house that night and stay in the town, so they can both think things over.
Theo says he and Ella will leave the following morning but that night, he sees written on his journal. “You should have left. Now it’s too late.” He decides to leave right away and since their car is with Susannah, they have no choice but to walk to the town. It is so cold and after they’ve walked downhill for a long time, both Theo and Ella are astounded that they’re back to the house where they started.
Things gets creepier and Ella gets lost inside the house. Theo searches for him in dark and hidden rooms and corridors. He is confronted by an old man with a crutch, who is actually an older version of himself. The old man tells him he will get Ella back, provided he must do something, which is revealing his guilt over a thing he had done in the past.
Both “His House” and “You Should Have Left” are about haunted places, but the latter is more effective as there is nothing at all creepy about the house where Theo and family take a vacation. It is very modern, very beautiful that you won’t suspect at all that it has a devilish secret. Both films eventually failed to scare us effectively simply because it’s guilty of the first sin in scary films that we always point out in our reviews. To be truly scary, we should care for the leading characters. In both films, the characters have done something bad so they just deserve to be haunted.
Actually, the quickly paced first half of “You Should Have Left” worked well for us, as we don’t know yet what is really happening. Too bad that we didn’t like the way it is resolved, since we are sympathizing with Theo from the start and we truly felt sad for him when he finds out that Susannah is cheating on him.
And in all fairness to Kevin Bacon, he’s fairly effective in his role. We can’t forget him for his break out role as the dancing hero in “Footloose” in 1984. He is now 62 years old but he has managed to keep himself so trim, just like Dennis Quaid. Of course, the lines on their face betray their real age but you’d really be amazed that they didn’t gain any weight at all in their old age.
As for “His House”, we appreciate the fact that it presented the culture clash that happens when natives from a third world African country get to Europe where they are subjected to racism and have trouble adjusting to their new surroundings as they quest for a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
The actors playing the lead role both deliver solid performances, specially Mosaku, a big woman with a big bosom, who invests her portrayal with such quiet dignity. Actually, the most chilling scene in the film for us is her scene with a doctor who is taking blood samples from her and notices scars on her head and arm. She says she comes from a village with two warring tribes. To avoid being killed, she wears the symbols of both tribes and she says: “I survive by belonging nowhere.” We’ve read so many stories about tribal massacres in Africa and this, no doubt, is much more terrifying than any other ghost story.