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.
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.”
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.
- The Seasoning House (2013) – An Unpleasant Tale about Prostitution during the Civil War (simonsayswatchthis.wordpress.com)
- The Seasoning House DVD Review (thepeoplesmovies.com)
- The Seasoning House (Films and Things)