Today: February 21, 2024
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The Seasoning House

By – Sean Mowle – A fitting opener for this year’s FrightFest the 13th

By – Sean
Mowle

A fitting opener for this year’s FrightFest the 13th, The Seasoning
House
is the directorial debut of Paul
Hyett
, (special effects guru on films such as The Descent, Woman In Black
& Tower Block) and he’s bravely
chosen some dark subject matter to make that debut with.

The film is set in 1996 in
a Balkan brothel, the Seasoning House of the title, that caters for the darkest
and usually violent desires of its patrons, civilian and military. It’s
staffed by women and girls kidnapped from the war zone by the local militia,
the lives they knew before gone, replaced by one of degradation and violence,
chained to beds in filthy rooms.

The brothel is run by the
vicious Viktor (Kevin Howarth) and
his henchmen with a callous and emotionless disregard for the girls’ welfare.
When a girl dies she is simply replaced by another. It’s business. First time
actress Rosie Day plays Angel, a
young deaf-mute girl whose mother is killed in front of her in a raid by the
local militia lead by the ruthless Goran (Sean
Pertwee
). She is captured and dragged screaming back to the brothel with a
batch of other girls. In a chilling early scene, the captured girls are taught
to trust ViKtor or suffer the consequences.

Deemed unsuitable as
merchandise, due to her facial birthmark, Angel is consigned to preparing the
food, emptying the latrine buckets and most importantly keeping the girls
drugged up on heroin, while Viktor keeps her safe. But, unbeknownst to her
captors, she moves around the house at night using the air vents and
crawlspaces, witnessing the horrors to which the girls are subject and
befriending one who she discovers can use sign language. Then, one
fateful day a band of soldiers arrive for a little R&R and with horror
she realises it’s Goran and his men…

From the first frames, The
Seasoning House is a dark, tense, claustrophobic piece that never flinches from
portraying the depths to which the human mind can sink. Stopping short, and
rightly so, of showing too much graphic sex, the horror of the girls’ plight is
often conveyed through sounds and the viewer’s imagination. That’s not to say
the film shies away from the gore, in fact the reverse is the case, some of the
violence (and there is a lot of it) is extreme and features one of the most
realistic throat slittings you’re going to witness outside of a Jihadi video
and the rape scenes, when they are shown, are brutal. The acting is superb,
Rosie Day is a revelation in a virtually silent role, still managing to convey
the harshness of her situation through her performance and emotions and Sean
Pertwee, as ever, is dependable as the rotten b*stard you want to see die. The
sets, lighting and cinematography are all excellent, enhancing the grim,
oppressive nature of the film which is heightened by the ultra-realistic special
effects.

The Seasoning House is a
stunning debut but it’s a grueling ride and not recommended for everyone,
certainly not for the faint-heated.
Speaking at FrightFest, director Hyett spoke of this being the first
part of his ‘war’ trilogy and that the next two films will be even
darker!

Ultimately, what makes this
film stand out is that the horror is based in reality, there are no zombies,
vampires or witches in The Seasoning House; the ghouls here are all human and
far worse for it.

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