Quick Reviews: 'His House', 'Unhinged' | Psychological Horror Thriller, Russell Crowe
Anytime that a horror film takes on a very serious real-life issue and spins it around until it turns into a feature length story about people going through it, it becomes a tightrope which many first time directors would steer away from walking on. For director and writer Remi Weekes, that isn’t the case with His House which takes on immigration, domestic terrorism and survivor’s guilt all in one setting. Bol (Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) are a South Sudanese couple who have fled their country to the UK, having been in detention centre after arriving and now they’ve been granted an asylum and residence in a house in an unnamed town. Weekes has crafted His House to be a smart and interesting piece of work, and while not all of the potential is fulfilled, what it has to say leaves a mark on you.
If you’ve ever seen more than five horror movies, you might have thought afterwards ’’I would’ve just left the haunted house’’. That is not something you need to think about this time because Bol and Rial don’t have a choice in that matter; they don’t have anywhere else to go, they don’t know anyone and their probation requires them to vacate their house for a certain time. While being a great explanation for the premise on its own, Weekes doesn’t only rely on that. The house represents a new beginning and the surrounding area doesn’t have a civil war raging on there. Ghosts and apparitions appear not only because this is horror, they appear because the story revolves around Bol and Rial’s uncertainty, trauma and, what is revealed later on too, regret. Weekes’ screenplay plays it smart by revealing these things slowly but surely.
In the very heart of the film, Mosaku and Dìrísù both deliver whether that is in their own scenes or when sharing the screen. Ghosts and spooky sounds are only as effective as the horrified faces of those seeing them and Dìrísù especially shines on that front. Mosaku’s notable moment is during a scene where she asks directions from three black teens and is told to ’’go back to Africa’’ because of her accent, it’s a very short moment but you can truly believe million things running through Rial’s mind then, one being whether she really belongs in this new place. Where His House falters slightly is the shift halfway in and also the journey of the characters.
The first half features your usual horror scares but the dramatic change to drama after that is a bit weak. During that change, you might also realise that you don’t truly know much about Bol and Rial which is a shame because the actors, as said, are very good. Where the two end up at the end doesn’t really reflect what they went through as the whole experience is washed over with what feels like the world’s least helpful therapy session. The film doesn’t utilise the filmmaking as well as it does its themes, luckily that is that unfulfilled potential which Weekes can work on with his second feature.
Smileys: Acting, premise, screenplay
Frowneys: Tone, characterisation
First film with a tune about Peter Crouch in it, innit?
Well, the man is most definitely unhinged as the title claims so anyone who happens to stumble onto watching Unhinged, directed by Derrick Borte and written by Carl Ellsworth, will surely get what they were promised. As the world of film in general aspires to tell boundary pushing stories and nowadays that often relates to technological evolution or intergalactic journeys, there really isn’t anything all that wrong with a movie that grounds itself with a simple concept of road rage.
Russell Crowe is The Man (with an alias of Tom Cooper), who a struggling mother Rachel (played by Caren Pistorius) and her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) have the unfortunate pleasure of encountering in traffic, as the bickering leads to a meltdown of The Man who goes on a killing spree to make Rachel’s life miserable. There is a budget for a great action film and commitment to fun B-movie thrills but not leaning towards either one is the downfall here.
It would be quite easy to write these kinds of movies off just based on the premises but some things are made to be 80 minutes of unrelenting madness, that is exactly why Unhinged didn’t feel a second too long or rushed. When your senses are just exploited by car chases, tense moments of stalking and actors who get what project they signed on to, it works for a movie like this. Crowe comes off rather strong in the beginning but he is deservedly chewing the scenery, as is Pistorius in her role as well, eventually you just get to their level because the story doesn’t try too hard with their characters. Also helping is the action with cars because it all is quite well done, a lot of it is stupid enough to work for entertainment.
Some weaknesses with the script you might notice as you’re watching it but some do arise after also. Unhinged hits a flat because it gets stuck in between a B-movie and high class action, visually it just looks so much less than its budget of $33 million and The Man’s kills are just as boring as the fight choreography is laughable. The script lets characters get off easy too many times (the diner scene being the worst executed one) but a couple of those could be forgiven if the payoff was any fun and the ending just isn’t worth it. Then when you say that a film looks less than its money, it is one of the last things anyone should say about your work. Action at the end is incomprehensible due to awful editing and colour-wise nothing just makes sense. Everything looks plain, lifeless and mundane which is a shame because it could’ve used some visual flair to make the road trip more lively.
Smileys: Pacing, Russell Crowe
Frowneys: Colouring, screenplay, editing
Makes you think the next time you blare your car horn, it might unhinge someone.