Written and Directed by Remi Weekes
Starring Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith
There is a feeling that pervades the two refugees from South Sudan as the find their way to the shores of England. Bol (Dirisu) and Rial (Mosaku) escaped the hell of their home, went through an deadly journey which claimed the life of their daughter among others in the Mediterranean. Now, as part of the asylum process, they are required to live within the confines of a shabby, but decently sized two story townhouse on the outskirts of London.
The house itself is a tough draw, it’s run down and with many serious flaws. They will take it, though, along with the chance at a new life together. Bol is confident they can assimilate and be known as two of the “good ones,” that their new country will not have to worry about.
Very soon after they arrive, strange things begin to occur, centered around their living room. Bol is mystified, but his wife knows what it is, and it does not scare her. She tells Bol the story of an “apeth.” This night witch has come to them because they stole something. They need to make amends for it to go away and make things right.
This is where it becomes the most interesting. Rial is not scared of the demon at all. Compared to the things she’s seen and lost, which she decorates her body to represent, this ghost and it’s minions do not scare her. In fact, she sits in the kitchen and actually talks with it to find out what it wants.
Bol will not give in, and takes actions that he thinks should help. They do not.
The standard ghost story happens in the middle of a normal life, where people are brought into horror by seeing their comfort torn away. Bol and Rial have never really known comfort, and only just now reached a point where it should be within reach.
Weekes does an excellent job creating a situation that we can empathize with, even if it is not an experience we share. We know these two are “good ones,” just like we know what torments them is really evil. We also know the tight line that they walk on the cusp of a better life. It could all be ripped from them tomorrow if they leave the house to which they are assigned. The dichotomy is terrifying.
This film scares the hell out of you. Weekes completely understands how to use the camera lens in order to maximize its effect on the viewer. We fear what we don’t quite see more than what is right in front of us. It’s a masterwork of using every available inch of visible space. The practical effects are spare and indelibly crafted.
The performances of Dirisu and Mosaku are incredible. They are people who we want to embrace and can completely identify with, once we understand their journey. Weekes helps create characters that are not sympathy seekers, but the desire nothing more than anyone else in this world might want: a fair shot. They won’t complain if they’re behind the 8 ball, because they’ve been in under the barrel of guns for their whole lives.
Dirisu has a very simple kindness to his face. He completely utilizes an innocence that belies his past as he endeavors to improve the future for he and his wife.
Mosaku, one of the true highlights to Lovecraft Country, has eyes that cannot lie. She has not so much fear, as sadness. It’s a wisdom that provides little comfort. She pushes on, walking wounded.
The film takes a turn in the third act. It’s a vision of life as it was, clouding the vision of our protagonist future by holding their sin against them. They have been captured by a mistake while fleeing a world filled with savage devils chasing them down. They carry hell with them to the gates of paradise.
The most moving vision in this film filled with incredible vantage points is when Bol stumbles across some locals right after he moves into their home. They welcome him, give him household products. As he sits looking over the things they donated, he hears the rest in the lounge singing songs while watching a soccer match. He looks up and starts singing. They look back, nod their head in approval, then continue singing. The look on Bol’s face gives a joy that should fill one’s soul. It does mine.
(***** out of *****)