As this writer continues to play post-Halloween catch up with reviews, here’s a look at two films I recently had the pleasure of checking out: His House from up-and-coming filmmaker Remi Weekes and Tremors: Shrieker Island, the seventh film in the Tremors franchise.
His House: After premiering earlier this year at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Remi Weekes’ His House is now available to stream on Netflix. By blending together a haunted house story with his poignant examination of the dehumanizing treatment of refugees, Weekes creates a truly haunting experience where trauma and terror manifest in very personal ways, resulting in one of the most harrowing genre films to come along this year.
In His House, we follow Bol (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù), his wife Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), and their daughter (Malaika Wakoli-Agibaba) as they are desperately fleeing a war-torn Sudan in hopes of finding a better life in the U.K. Tragedy strikes during their dangerous boat ride to this promised land, leaving the refugees shaken but still optimistic about starting their lives over in a new country. They’re finally granted the opportunity to begin the assimilation process in the U.K., and the immigration board gives them a low-income property to move into, a meager weekly allowance, and several strict rules that both Bol and Rial must abide by in order to satisfy their ability to stay in their new country of residence. But as they settle into their new home, the couple are faced with unimaginable horrors, both real and imagined, turning their dream of a new life into a waking nightmare.
What works so well about His House is how Weekes is able to confidently blend together moments of gut-punch horror and devastating emotional stakes for his characters, making his directorial debut a truly remarkable moment for the genre in 2020. Weekes is also able to manipulate some of horror’s most well-known tropes into these unexpected scares that will undoubtedly leave viewers rattled to their core. Both Dìrísù and Mosaku also deliver up truly wonderful performances in His House that help ground the story and make us care deeply about them and the things that they have to endure here, which makes the film’s conclusion that much more satisfying in the end.
A film about the social and emotional disconnect that can eat away at us and consume everything we care about if we’re not careful, His House is truly a standout effort in so many ways. It’s a true horror show with a lot of heart that also manages to explore a handful of timely issues in some very thought-provoking ways.
Movie Score: 4/5
Tremors: Shrieker Island: One of the biggest joys of my career over the last few years is being able to cover the Tremors film series. The original film was a huge favorite of mine growing up, and my better half and I bonded early on in our relationship over our shared love of the Tremors series as a whole (which was only four films at that time). I’ve really enjoyed to varying degrees what both Bloodlines and A Cold Day in Hell brought to the table over the last few years, but I must say that Tremors: Shrieker Island is easily the best sequel in the series since Tremors II, nearly 25 years ago.
For this latest installment, we are transported to a tropical island where a big game hunter named Bill (Richard Brake) has transported Graboids and then genetically altered them, all in the name of sport, as he brings wealthy trophy hunters out to try and snag them a Graboid for their prized collections. Bill’s ill-advised activities catch the attention of conservationist and scientist Jas (Caroline Langrishe), who works in the area, and she realizes there’s only one man who is capable of handling this type of job: the one and only Burt Gummer (Michael Gross). Jas sends her trusty second-hand man Jimmy (Jon Heder) to retrieve Burt from his life of isolation in Papua New Guinea, and Burt agrees to take on these supped-up Graboids after he learns of just what scummy entrepreneur Bill has been up to. The only catch is that Burt and his ragtag group of helpers don’t have access to any sort of heavy artillery, but what they lack in firepower, they more than make up for in ingenuity.
I’m sure I’m a bit biased when it comes to the Tremors series, and especially this latest trilogy, so I know my mileage is definitely going to vary in comparison to what other viewers will get out of Shrieker Island, but I do think this is the first entry in the latest batch of sequels that really and truly feels like it was made in the same spirit of the first two Tremors films. It treats the Graboids and Shriekers as real threats once again, and there are several sequences in Shrieker Island that would have felt right at home in the Jurassic Park series, too.
I also have to say that another aspect I enjoyed about Tremors: Shrieker Island is that the story feels like it’s trying to distance itself from being so gun-crazy, too. Burt’s penchant for weaponry was a great source of humor in some of the early Tremors films, but these days, it feels a bit out of place in the context of where the world is at right now, and so I was happy to see Shrieker Island pivot away from using guns as a character trait for Burt. I also appreciated how this latest entry in the Tremors series makes a statement about trophy hunting and just what kind of morally bankrupt people would participate in such activities.
While some of the dialogue is admittedly a bit ham-fisted at times, Gross once again gives it his all in Tremors: Shrieker Island and Richard Brake, who has quickly established himself as one of the best character actors working these days, is a real presence here, and I could watch him ooze his smarmy charisma all over the place for days. For those who may not have enjoyed the latest films in the Tremors series, I don’t know how much Shrieker Island will do for you, but as a longtime fan, I was pretty surprised by how much this latest sequel was able to once again recapture the magic of the first few Tremors movies, and it was also great to see this latest trilogy in the franchise come full circle for the character of Burt Gummer as well.
Movie Score: 4/5