Despite the subject matter being about young girls being held captive against their will for sex trafficking, Paul Hyett’s debut The Seasoning House is a movie which takes no prisoners. It’s cinema at its boldest and most unflinching; but where other movies would be content to torture its victims into the realms of exploitation fodder, this revenge thriller handles the material with honesty, style and class to provide a thought provoking piece which highlights a criminal underbelly that exists to this very day in the real world.
Angel (Rosie Day) is a deaf-mute who gets taken from her home after watching her family and neighbours being gunned down by soldiers. She’s taken to a brothel with other young girls, where they are subjected to rape and abuse at the hands of mercenaries and owner Viktor (Kevin Howarth). Due to a scar on her face and some surprising pity, Angel is not prostituted like the other girls; her duty is to make sure they’re doped up for the vile pieces of human waste who purchase their services. One day, Angel befriends one of the girls and murders the man who raped her death later on, which leads to a higher body count and daring escape.
The Seasoning House is not a fun movie. It’s depressing and ugly and not for the squeamish; there is no bright colours in the house for a start; the brothel is dirty and rotten, plagued by rats and humanities worst atrocities. The villains are the worst human beings imaginable and the girls are always frightened and defenseless. The violence is uncompromising and you get the sense that there is no escape for any of the girls. So, what raises it above your typical torture porn shocker? For a start, it’s set in a time period where underground sex houses were used in Balkan countries to fund wars. Many torture porn movies have claimed to guise their exploitation as reflections of real world tragedies, but here the strong themes of soldier brutality, the effect of war and a brutally honest depiction of child abuse; not to mention excellent performances from the cast (which includes the always marvelous Sean Pertwee), it manages to rise above the gutter and soar.
The cinematography is exquisite: ugly has never looked so astonishingly beautiful. The Seasoning House is an exceptionally well made tour de force in cinematic nihilism that’s sure to give sleeping horror binge watchers a kick up the arse. A reminder that there’s evil in the world we live in at its most unforgiving, this is a must see if you can handle it. Why not double bill it with Martyrs (2008) for a cold, dark nights viewing. 9/10
Paul Hyett, Conal Palmer, Adrian Rigelsford
Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Kevin Howarth