Seasoning House, The (Blu-ray / DVD)
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!
4 out of 5
2 out of 5