The Seasoning House
December 3, 2013 (U.S. DVD)
Paul Hyett, Conal Palmer, Adrian Rigelsford, Helen Solomon (original story by)
Rosie Day as Angel
Sean Pertwee as Goran
Kevin Howarth as Viktor
Anna Walton as Violeta
Jemma Powell as Alexa
Alec Utgoff as Josif
The Seasoning House is set in a war-torn European region, reportedly The Balkans around 1996. If that area and timeframe are correctly reported, that section of the world did see quite a bit of war and strife as Eastern Bloc countries came to terms with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and countries formerly under the control of Yugoslavia started to declare their independence. With war comes lawlessness, and young women who can be of “service” to paying male customers are among the first victims.
Angel (Rosie Day) is unable to speak, and witnesses a band of violent soldiers murder her mother before taking the young girls of her village away in chains. Goran (Sean Pertwee), the commander of the militia, has a partnership with Viktor (Kevin Howarth) who runs a local brothel – Goran provides the girls and in exchange he gets a cut of the profits and use of the facilities for him and his men whenever he likes. Angel has it a bit easier than the other girls, as the inability to speak and a birthmark on her face bring Viktor to decide that she is best suited prepping the girls for their dates and cleaning their wounds after the sometimes violent encounters than actually working the front lines. Angel’s freedom to walk about the house allows her to explore the heating ducts and passages in and under the house, and she roams the bowels of her prison nightly.
Angle is generally able to turn off her emotions and go about her duties prepping and cleaning the girls until she meets Vanya (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), a captive girl who knows sign language and so can communicate with Angel. When the very solders who captured Angel visit the brothel, and one of those soldiers violently rapes and kills Angel’s new friend Vanya, she can take it no more and goes about exacting bloody revenge in any way she can.
The Seasoning House has some of the gore and frightening chase elements of a good horror film, but could also be classified as a wartime dramatic thriller as well. The setting is that of a historical period piece, although that period is near enough in the past that it’s not dated. One of the most disturbing elements of the film is the realization that brothels filled with drugged-up captives likely exist across the world right now as we speak, and that this may be just the tip of the atrocity iceberg. It is fantastic, then, to see a little girl end up getting the best of solder after soldier in revenge-film style. Interesting, though, that this does not play like the typical revenge film like I Spit on your Grave, Last House on the Left, or Hard Candy, in that this little girl does not become some kind of thoughtful predator after something snaps inside and she sheds her victimhood. Throughout it all this is still a little girl, and all she really wants to do is save her friend and escape. The brilliance of The Seasoning House is that revenge is played hard while the essence of the little mute girl remains intact.
The acting performances in The Seasoning House are all amazing. The young Rosie Day is captivating in her role of Angel, hitting every emotional point necessary at just the right times. Sean Pertwee (Event Horizon, Dog Soldiers, Devil’s Playground) as the militia commander Goran is fantastic as well, walking a line between reserved and controlled soldier and completely out of control essence of rage to perfection. Kevin Howarth does a fine job as brothel-owner Viktor, and every one of the captive girls are completely heartbreaking in their portrayals of sex slaves for hire. Every performance from beginning to end works extremely well, a testament to the casting of this film and also the script and direction.
The ending of The Seasoning House is not ultra-dramatic, and there is no view of young Angle looking at the camera with a devious grin, finally embracing the killer within; Nothing so cheap. Throughout this film there is never a moment when the girl goes “too far” and loses any of the support and cheers from the audience she’s spent the entire runtime gaining. On the contrary, it is almost as if Angel continually gets lucky, time after time, making it even more exhilarating to cheer for her as she does her deeds. The Seasoning House has good violence and gore, a good concept of revenge, good likeable (and hateable) characters to care about, but ultimately The Seasoning House is great cinema. As the freshman feature offering of Paul Hyett (co-writer and director), who previously made his mark as a successful make-up and FX artist, having worked on some popular horror films such as The Descent, Eden Lake, The Reverend and Citadel, The Seasoning House is top notch.
This is not your typical horror film, not your typical revenge film, and definitely does not take the easy way out in any regard from set-up to climax. For those horror fans looking for something a little different from a beloved slasher film or monster movie, The Seasoning House is a great bet.