Brutal, harrowing, unflinching and relentless. Just some of the words that will no doubt be used to describe the debut feature of SFX artist turned director Paul Hyett; and they’d be right, The Seasoning House is all those things. But it is also a a damning indictment of the inhumanity of man and price some pay for war; a true reflection on the horrors of war and of man.
The film follows Angel (Day), a deaf mute sold into slavery by soldiers who forcibly remove her from her home and kill her mother. Scarred by a birth mark on her face Angel is too ugly to be used for prostitution, instead Viktor, the vicious pimp that runs the seasoning house, takes her under his wing, using her to drug and make-up the girls pre-coitus and then clean them up afterwards… However unbeknownst to her captors, Angel crawls the walls of the house, fighting her own battle – the hollow walls of the seasoning house are her trenches, those outside the walls – the men who would have their way with the drug-addled girls – the enemy.
Based on case studies of true events that have happened across the globe in many war-torn countries, The Seasoning House is a film that walks a fine line between realism and exploitation. Director Hyett has obviously come out all guns blazing with this film, this is a man who has studied his subject matter and his craft. There are subtleties to the film that will no doubt be missed by many at first glance -none more so than the fact that, despite all the excesses of the film, this is not a brutal as the true stories of the exploitation of women during wartime. Stories which go untold in the mainstream media. Hyett also wears his influences on his sleeve – the way in which Angel moves about the walls screams Wes Craven’s People Under the Stairs, however her mannerisms as she crawls forth from the vents echoes the movements and motions of Sadako from Hideo Nakata’s Ringu; and like Jaume Balaguero’s Sleep Tight, The Seasoning House is reminiscent of the early work of Roman Polanski – only with a modern nihilistic edge!
If Hyett is a man on top form, then so are his cast. I have nothing but praise for actress Rosie Day, her portrayal of Angel is one of fragility and strength, a mix of femininity and ferality that is astonishingly accomplished for someone so young – especially given that Angel is a deaf-mute. Day manages to convey the full gamut of emotions without saying one word, and come films conclusion amongst the pipework of a boiler, the look upon her face says more than words ever could. And Kevin Howarth, as Viktor, the owner of the titular seasoning house, manages (partly in thanks to the great script) to make his character both likeable and abhorrent at the same time and as an audience you can never really tell whether he loves Angel or is just protecting his greatest asset.
Possibly too harrowing for some, The Seasoning House is a challenging debut film from Paul Hyett. One that many will praise for its unflinching representation of a real-life situation, but one that many may say also glamourises it. The latter would of course be wrong. The Seasoning House is a film that both entertains and has a message; and I hope the wider audience realise that too.
This was a review by Phil From Blogomatic3000