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TV/Film Culture cheat sheet: “His House,” Phoebe Bridgers, and more

Nov. 25, 2020
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Watch: His House (2020, dir. Remi Weekes)

It’s hard not to compare His House, a social horror about a Sudanese couple seeking refuge in suburban England, to Jordan Peele’s Get Out, when the latter essentially invented the genre. But the directorial debut of British writer-director Remi Weekes, which premiered in this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is dripping with mastery unexpected from a newcomer.

The film opens more like a drama, with Bol (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) taking a nighttime boat trip with their daughter Nyagak, who they lose in the journey. When the couple is given their own house to recuperate and adapt, colonial trauma and survivor’s guilt begin materializing within their walls, appearing in the dark. Rial attributes this haunting to the apeth, the Dinka word for witch. “It has followed us here,” she explains to her husband.

The execution is not as biting as you would expect from a social horror, but it runs just as deep. The horror is more visceral; the couple may be untouchable to the witch (“Pictures can’t hurt you”), but that doesn’t mean it stops haunting them. “Part of the story was that you can try and ignore trauma but the more you ignore it, the more it gets to you,” filmmaker Weekes told  Collider. “It’s more of the emotional invisible pain of mental illness, which is what I guess the creature represented.”

The acting is spectacular, with the leads balancing feelings of relief and dread. The horror is rooted in their trauma—the film also touches on the horror they face outside, the racial microaggressions they endure. The film’s plot twist is undeniably its highlight, with flawlessly edited dream sequences and time jumps that neatly tie all loose ends that may have nagged you in the beginning. I’ll be thinking about this (and Rial saying, “After what we’ve been through, after what we’ve seen what men can do, you think it is bumps in the night that frighten me?”) for a long, long time.

His House is now streaming on Netflix.Tune In: “Choice Feminism with Haley Nahman,” Adulting Podcast by Oenone Forbat

Adulting is a podcast by Oenone Forbat in which she talks about things we were never taught in school, like white saviors, living consciously, and choice feminism. On the pod with Oenone in this episode is writer and editor Haley Nahman, who recently released an article about Emily Ratajkowski’s viral essay from The Cut. They extensively discuss the mutation and origin of corporate Lean In feminism, one that champions the freedom of individual choice for middle-class white women rather than liberation for all. “There’s all this talk about breaking glass ceilings,” Nahman said in the episode. “But what if the glass ceiling didn’t exist?”

They cover makeup, the history of feminism, and a much-needed redefinition of feminism itself—a return to the emphasis on economy and intersectionality over identity politics and topical women empowerment. There’s a sense of catharsis in hearing these thoughts aloud, of being told that you can be many things at once, that just because you’re a feminist doesn’t mean everything you do has to conform to our collective idea of feminism. It’s such a shame this conversation is only an hour long.

Listen to “Choice Feminism with Haley Nahman” in the Adulting podcast on Spotify here.

Listen: “Kyoto (Copycat Killer Version)” by Phoebe Bridgers and Rob Moose

There’s an ironic humor in Phoebe Bridgers going out of her way to give one of the very few upbeat songs in her 2020 album Punisher her signature melancholic treatment. (I saw an Instagram story about this that said, “Girl, did you even try to be happy?”) The Copycat Killer version of “Kyoto” is almost a different song entirely; its music video is meditative, almost a callback to the trippy animated screensaver of Windows Media Player.

Copycat Killer is the artist’s newest EP, set to release on the 20th, containing a reimagining of four tracks from Punisher in collaboration with arranger and string musician Rob Moose. “Kyoto” is just a taste of what’s to come, and judging by its heavy strings and Bridgers’ somber vocals, the soundtrack of our seasonal blues has arrived. 

Stream “Kyoto (Copycat Killer Version” by Phoebe Bridgers and Rob Moose on Spotify here.