The Seasoning House (2012) Dramatic Directorial Debut

Angel
The Seasoning House 2012

In the 2012 film, The Seasoning House, first time director Paul Hyett comes out of his corner swinging with this dramatic directorial debut. The film has been classed as horror, and in most viewers eye it is, but it is more of a tense drama, filled with enough suspense and unease to keep you uncomfortably on the edge of your seat for the duration of the film.

In war-torn Bosnia, a young deaf-mute girl with a strawberry birthmark on her face, sees her only parent brutally shot down by soldiers before she is kidnapped with other girls from her town. She winds up in a brothel run by Victor who, taking a shine to the young girl, keeps her for himself and teaches her how to “maintain” the other girls in the house.

Dubbed Angel by Victor, she goes through her daily routine of giving the unwilling prostitutes heroin and cleaning them up for the next client. When she isn’t with Victor or the girls, she roams the house via the attic and the spaces between the walls and ceiling. She meets a girl that can communicate with her through sign language and the two become friends.

Suddenly the soldiers who killed her mother and kidnapped her show up and everything takes a turn for the worse.

The film is pretty brutal. Thankfully the “rape” scenes are not too graphic and not too many. They are, nonetheless, uncomfortable viewing. All the more so because the film shows just how dehumanised the girls have been made under Victors tutelage. When Angel “snaps” and decides to attempt escape, the picture increases the already potent air of dread.

Rosie Day, who played Angel, was brilliant in the role of the birth marked deaf mute. She was utterly convincing in her isolation and when she “turns” you find yourself cheering her on in her efforts to keep from becoming another victim. Sean Pertwee as Goran, the leader of the soldiers, made a brilliant villain.  His character is the worst of the lot in a film filled with distasteful and horrible people. It was a surprise to see Pertwee as a villain, he usually plays doomed characters who die quite graphically in whatever film he is in.

Sean Pertwee as Goran
Sean Pertwee as Goran

Kevin Howarth played brother owner Victor, and he also did an excellent job as the torn pimp. His character had another level, which made him all the more interesting as well as confusing. The only down side to the film was Pertwee’s accent. I have seen him in other films where his dialect and accent were spot on when playing a non-English role. In The Seasoning House, however it did have a tendency to  “wander.”

Kevin Howarth as Victor

The film was a pleasant surprise, as Hyett held nothing back for his first feature film. It was gripping stuff and there are some scenes near the end of the film that actually made me fell uncomfortable enough to almost stop watching for a moment. I have never been, “claustrophobically” inclined, but at several points my heart-rate increased and I had to “control” my breathing as I watched the action on screen.

This is a real “gut churning” experience that should not be missed. The Seasoning House is currently on UK Netflix and definitely a 4.5 out  of 5 star film. For a dramatic directorial debut, Peter Hyett, manages to hit a home run worthy of Babe Ruth.

Actress Rosie Day
Actress Rosie Day

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The Loved Ones (2009): Oddness in the Outback

Every once in a great while you bump into a film that shows not only the underbelly of its protagonists but does it so well that the film becomes unforgettable. Written and directed by Sean Byrne, The Loved Ones is his first feature length film. Considering that this is his first time at bat, he has hit a home run that equals the performance of the legendary Babe Ruth.

Starring Xavier SamuelRobin McLeavy and John Brumpton the film shows three dysfunctional families and their problems. Firstly, we have Brent (Samuel) who is driving home with his dad after just getting his license. As he and his dad exchange banter, Brent takes his eyes off the road and when he looks back up he sees a bloody man standing in front of their car. Swerving he crashes into a tree.

Six months later we learn that Brent’s dad died in the crash and that Brent is planning on attending his high school prom with his long-term girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). We also learn that Brent’s mother is still trying to cope with her husbands death. At school while Brent is getting things out of his locker a girl named Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks him to the prom. Replying that he will be going with Holly, but “thanks for asking,” he then goes out to meet with Holly in the car park.

It turns out that Brent is having a hard time dealing with his father’s death. He wears a razor blade  around his neck for self harming and he likes to feel close to death. It is while he is rock climbing that someone comes up behind him and knocks him out. The same person breaks his mobile phone and tries to kill his dog.

When Brent regains conciousness he is tied to a chair and Lola, who is now called Princess by her father, is having her own private prom at home and Brent is her unwilling date. After injecting him with bleach to freeze his vocal cords, she and her doting father begin a long night of torture.

In the meantime, Brent’s friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) is taking ‘goth chick’ Mia (Jessica McNamee) to the Prom. Mia’s dad is the local police constable and she is uncommunicative and seems to exist to only take drugs, drink alcohol, and have sex. Jamie is about as socially inept as they come and the two provide a lot of the movies lighter moments.

This film has some of the most cringe worthy moments I have ever seen in a film. It also has about the best cast possible. Princess’s father manages to repulse you and then make you feel pity for his character. Princess, aka Lola, just oozes insanity that has been brought about from her father not being able to say no to any request she makes.

Brent manages to make the damage that Bruce Campbell as Ashe goes through in the Evil Dead trilogy look like a walk in the park. The fact that he makes his suffering look all too real really helps to sell the film.

Special kudos to John Brumpton as Lola’s Daddy. This man manages to almost steal the show with his performance.

John Brumpton as Daddy.

By the end of the film Byrne manages to tie all the families together as we the audience realise that Princess’s madness has touched them all.

I rate just how good a film is by how I feel after I’ve just watched it. The Loved Ones fell into the category of ‘I need to see this one again!’ Australia has a brilliant knack of making horror films that stick with you. The cast lists are small and intimate and the characters so richly developed that you bond with them and really care about what happens to them.

I cannot wait to see what Sean Byrne has planned for us next.

Director Sean Byrne.