The Seasoning House is the directorial debut from special effects makeup artist Paul Hyett, whose makeup work has featured in films such as Doomsday and The Descent. A dark, gritty and twisted thriller with sure-fire elements of traditional survival horror, this is a film that will upset and cause discomfort to some due to its violent scenes of gore and horrific subject matter, but at the root of it is a pretty well made horror flick.
Set during the Balkan war, the plot follows a young deaf girl named “Angel”, played very well by Rosie Day in her feature film debut. Her performance in which, due to her characters impairment, doesn’t include any dialogue, is wonderfully acted with the emotions of the character being expressed purely through facial expressions and body language. It is a strong performance that steals the show and often puts the more-experienced actors in scenes they share with Day to shame. Angel works in a dirty and dusty house in a war-torn village, the house in question houses women who are being sold as sex slaves in which they are beaten, drugged, raped and even killed. It is a horrible subject and some of the scenes are tough to watch. Viktor, played by Kevin Howarth, runs the house and uses Angel to look after “his women” by washing them, feeding them and doping them up. The scenes involving the abused women are harsh and the vacancy in their eyes and conditions they are living is incredibly sinister and gives a terrible oppressive atmosphere to the film.
In the midst of the main story we are shown the history of Angel as a character and what lead her to be in the house in the first place. As the film goes on and we learn about the terrible things that happened to her and through brutal circumstances she comes face to face with the men who were responsible for these things. This is where the first act ends and the second act, in which Angel attempts to escape the house and the militia that is hunting her. This results in some brutal scenes of violence and shows that the second half of the film is definitely the most watchable.
Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers) plays the main antagonist of the story, Goran, and is in my view the weakest part of the film. His performance lacks depth and his accent jitters between eastern-European and cockney as he mumbles his lines which are often cliqued and ridiculous, making what should have been a realistic and horrific character into a lame caricature with chip on his shoulder. Still, Pertwee is not in the film enough to ruin it entirely, but the casting here is very unusual and the film would have benefited greatly from someone better suited.
As much a political statement as it is a horror movie, The Seasoning House is one that fans of revenge and survival horror might enjoy, though “enjoy” is not exactly the correct word to use in this situation.
It’s a strong movie and there are some graphic, violent and uncomfortable moments in its 93 minute running time, but overall I thought it was well made and acted with enough determination and authenticity that it accelerated past the typical “torture porn” vengeance flick.
It isn’t perfect and at times it pushes its luck too much, plus some of the performances are bordering on wooden, but the lead performance from Rosie Day as well as the gory practical effects makes it worth checking out. It’s a subject that is based very much on factual instances, a fact that makes it all the more grotesque and horrifying. Not for everyone, and not one I will necessarily be in a hurry to revisit. Depressive and not an enjoyable experience, this is one of those films that will be switched off half way through as often as it is watched to its startling conclusion.