Before Awards Season, I never would have heard about this British scary movie, it looked and sounded really interesting, so I was definitely up for it. Basically, in war-torn South Sudan, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (BAFTA nominated Wunmi Mosaku) are refugees fleeing with their daughter, Nyagak (Malaika Abigaba). They brave stormy waters on an overcrowded motorboat with many fellow refugees on the perilous English Channel from France searching for a better life. Although they survive the treacherous crossing, their daughter and many others are killed. Three months, they have made it to Britain and are finally granted probational asylum. The government assigns them a dilapidated house on the outskirts of London which has peeling walls, dismal furnishings and almost no cleanliness. They are given strict restrictions, or they may face deportation. They experience racism and hatred from their neighbours. They are met by their case worker Mark (Matt Smith) who appears to be friendly and hopeful for them. Bol tries to incorporate himself to their new life, including interacting with others, trying to encourage Rial to use utensils for eating, and even changing how he dresses. Bol wants to prove to the government that he and Rial belong in the UK. Rial, however, clings to their culture, including dressing in colourful clothes and eating on the floor rather than at the table. She also keeps the necklace of their dead daughter. Both Bol and Rial soon experience strange and disturbing phenomena in their new home, seeing visions of Nyagak and a mysterious man, who both lurk in the walls. Rial works out that the evil in their house is an apeth (a ghostly being of South Sudanese Dinka folklore) or "night witch". She tells Bol the story of a poor man in her village who accidentally stole from an apeth by the river. When the thief built his home, the apeth moved in with him and haunted him. Rial believes that an apeth has followed them and if they repay their debt, the apeth will bring Nyagak back to them. But they do not know what the "debt" is that they need to repay. Bol burns everything they brought with them, but the evil spirit continues to torment him, and things deteriorate between the couple. Bol goes to Mark to request new accommodation, claiming that their home is infested with rats, but is unable to convince him. Bol tears apart the house looking for the apeth, and the chances for the couple staying in the UK are threatened when Mark discovers the damage. But Rial tells Bol that this is fine and that she wants to leave. Bol locks Rial in the house before he summons the apeth himself, who calls him a thief and claims that Bol took a life. The apeth offers Bol a deal: his life for Nyagak's, but he outright refuses this offer, resulting in Bol becoming so angered that he momentarily becomes catatonic. When Rial is tormented by the spirit, she manages to escape the house but finds herself inexplicably back in South Sudan in a familiar classroom. She is reunited with old friends, and a flashback reveals them to be victims of a horrendous massacre. Rial survived the massacre by hiding. Bol found her and the couple made their escape as violence gripped the region, but a bus service would only let on people with children. Nyagak was found by Bol in the crowd and abducted, the couple falsely claimed that she was their daughter. The couple boarded the bus and escaped, leaving Nyagak's real mother (Lola May) running behind the bus, as gunfire erupted. Later, many Africans crossed a rough sea, when Nyagak and others fell overboard. Neither Bol nor Rial could reach her in time. Having accepted what they did, Bol decides to repay the debt to the apeth and tells Rial the truth. Bol starts to let the apeth into his skin and Nyagak enters the room and returns to Rial. But Rial does not accept this alternate reality, she saves Bol by slitting the apeth's throat. Later, Mark comes to inspect the house to find it repaired. Bol and Rial tell him they have chosen to stay and make it their new home. They say Rial killed the witch that haunted them, which Mark finds funny. Bol says they decided to live and go on with the ghosts of their past from South Sudan, including Nyagak. Through the doorway, the spirits of other unknown immigrants are seen, and with them in the home, but the couple are then seen alone and stand holding holds in their new home with a peaceful look in their eyes. Also starring Javier Botet as the Witch, Emily Taaffe as Dr. Hayes, Dominic Coleman as Lead Officer, and Cornell John as the voice of the Witch. Dirisu and Mosaku both give great performances as the refugees seeking a better life, the mix of displacement, trauma and social alienation and the evil ghoul terrifying the couple is clever, it has well done traditional scares and hideous visual that get your attention, it is an imaginative take on the haunted house movie, an interesting horror thriller. It won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer for Remi Weekes (writer/director), and it was nominated for Outstanding British Film of the Year. Very good!
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