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Seasoning House, The (Blu-ray / DVD)

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The Seasoning House (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Kevin Howarth, Anna Walton, Jemma Powell

Directed by Paul Hyett


The Seasoning House is an absolute assault on viewers. This British film is set in the Balkans in 1996 and features the story of Angel, a deaf-mute girl kidnapped and forced to work in a brothel that provides soldiers with doped up girls to violate in any way they see fit. Fortunately for Angel, she has a large birthmark on the side of her face that makes the leader of the house, Viktor, think she would be better suited to clean up the house and tend to the girls then actually service the men.

And by tend to the girls, we don’t mean give them mani-pedis. Angel cleans the blood off of them after any particularly brutal ‘session’, cares for their wounds and is tasked with shooting them up and keeping them addicted to heroin.

The brutality of the war scenes, the kidnappings and the rapes perpetrated upon the girls of the house is chillingly realistic. We see Angel literally ripped from a loving home and thrust into a situation that is absolutely hopeless and painfully depressing. But The Seasoning House is a ferocious film that doesn’t let you go after simply showing you how tortured a life the frail Angel has found herself experiencing. The movie then goes on to feature some incredible blending of practical and digital F/X to make the situation even darker.

But even in all the misery, Angel manages to find a friend. Her tiny frame allows her to maneuver through the vents and walls of the house where she can access the rooms of the other girls. It’s here where she finds a friend and it’s here where this movie goes from a series of brutal crimes against the girls to a revenge film that will have you holding your breath in anticipation as tiny Angel first tries to survive, and then tries to repay the men who took everything from her.

Upon watching The Seasoning House, it’s very hard to believe that this is not only the first feature film for Rosie Day, who stars as Angel, but also for director and co-writer Paul Hyett. The cinematic spectacle Hyett brings to the screen in this movie is amazing. The hopelessness the viewer experiences is reminiscent to Frontier(s) or Martyrs. Working in the special F/X department for nearly 80 movies certainly taught Hyett a thing or two about making F/X magic and when he finally got his chance to direct with The Seasoning House, he came out with guns blazing. There are at least two scenes in the movie where you see an effect and it looks so incredibly stunning you have to just sit and wonder how the hell they did that.

So many things were done right in this film. Hyett did an incredible job with the direction and writing (co-written by Conal Palmer). Also, the casting was absolutely perfect in all the important places. Rosie Day shined as Angel and carried the project. Veteran actor Sean Pertwee was dastardly good as the vicious soldier, Goran. And Kevin Howarth was skin-crawlingly creepy as Viktor. The physically imposing Ryan Oliva (credited as Ryan Bell) was the perfect choice for the monster of a man, Ivan. In fact, it was the fight scene with Ivan that goes down as perhaps the most intense moment of this thoroughly exhausting film.

From the opening scenes of senseless killing in the streets, through the depravity of the brothel and straight into the painfully claustrophobic finale, The Seasoning House absolutely never lets up on the audience. The incredibly heavy subject matter of the movie, the amazing F/X, the blood, the puke, the graphic realism of some outstandingly creative F/X all combine to make The Seasoning House a movie that will stick with you. Shuffling off Angel and the atrocities committed upon her and her family and friends is no mean feat and will take at least a couple days. A powerful film that holds back nothing.

The Blu-ray contains a very small collection of special features. Just two, actually. There is the original trailer for The Seasoning House, which is pretty much obligatory on any home video. There is also a very interesting featurette about the making of the film. It’s here where you get to unravel the mysteries behind some of the awesome special F/X you see in the movie. And when you actually check out the work and planning that went into these moments of the film, you’ll appreciate them even more. It also shows a bit of the Q&A from FrightFest 2012 where The Seasoning House was the festival’s opening film. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the Blu-ray bonus material.

Although it doesn’t contain much of the additional content we like to see with Blu-rays, the feature presentation of The Seasoning House is more than enough to recommend this film. Don’t let the fact that you don’t get an entire extra disc full of outtakes and bloopers dissuade you from this one. It’s definitely worth a look!

Special Features

  • Making-of Featurette
  • Trailer

    Film:

    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 out of 5

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    IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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    Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

    On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

    The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

    While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

    What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

    While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

    • Alive in New Light
    5.0

    Summary

    IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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    The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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    Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

    Directed by John Law


    I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

    The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

    The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish
    4.0

    Summary

    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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