Welcome to Britflicks, a site dedicated to supporting the British film industry. Here you will find all the latest British film news, releases, trailers and interviews as well as some great competitions prizes.
British Film Review: The Seasoning House
Review by Alexa Dalby
You know something is amiss when a screening room full of critics goes quiet because everyone’s holding their breath – stunned. The Seasoning House is billed as a horror film. It’s the war-torn Balkans, Bosnia perhaps, it’s 1996, but writer/director Paul Hyett has thought it a good idea to exploit the horrendous plight of the young women forced into sex slavery by the region’s tragic ethnic conflicts by making a B-movie about them.
It opens with a black screen and the sound of a woman sobbing. Then a filthy, almost derelict room – a hand reaches through a grille in the skirting, removes it and a girl climbs through the opening. She is Angel (Rosie Day), a deaf mute, orphaned by a random act of terror, and her home is some obscene kind of brutal brothel where abducted girls are kept as sex slaves for sadistic men who pay extra to beat them as well as rape them. Angel’s job is to cook the heroin, inject them with it to keep them docile, sponge the blood from their beaten-up faces and make them up with lipstick and eyeshow in a grotesque parody of sexuality. Young and agile, she is small enough to crawl through the ventilation channels of the ruined house, allowing her access anywhere she pleases.
The charismatic – read sociopathic – ‘owner’ of the girls is Viktor (Kevin Howarth), pimping to make enough money to enable him to escape his shattered country, meanwhile ruling his little kingdom despotically. “Whatever life you knew is gone,” he melodramatically tells a group of new arrivals, in his ‘office’ and when the traumatised girls whimper, he slits the throat of one of them to make his point.
Mute Angel, brilliantly portrayed by Rosie Day, goes the whole film without speaking, though in one of the film’s unlikely twists, one of the imprisoned girls (Anna Walton), who becomes her only friend, just happens to be able to communicate with her in sign language – which is subtitled for our benefit. As Victor’s ‘pet’ – a trustie in the nightmare prison – Rosie Day conveys physically a combination of fear and numb resignation which turns to anger, a fearlessness born of desperation and sheer naked will to survive.
In the first half of the film we are battered with scene after unremitting scene of brutality towards terrified women being brutally raped on bloodstained mattresses. By the time the soldiers who murdered Angel’s mother turn up for their rest and recreation, led by inhuman monster Goran (Sean Pertwee), and Angel’s only friend dies as a result of an excessively violent rape by one of them, we, like Angel who is watching through her ventilation grille, have – unwillingly – also become voyeurs in this house of human misery.
But as Angel is driven at last to take her revenge and seek freedom, the film changes. After a very violent and visceral fight, it turns into a murderous game of hide and seek though the house’s crawling spaces, then leading to a preposterous chase of the slight fugitive by burly uniformed Pertwee though yet more narrow ventilation ducts, this time in a factory. I think you can guess where that’s heading. As if that wasn’t enough, there are two ridiculous twists before we reach the end – reminiscent of Funny Games, but whereas Haneke could turn that psychological sadism into art, here it seems overplotted and almost laughable.
Director Paul Hyett has had a distinguished career so far as a make-up artist and prosthetics special effects designer on many major feature films and TV series. In this, his first feature, he uses skewed camera angles and other camera effects to make a disorienting point and emphasise the dingy, claustrophobic setting. There’s a sharp contrast between the squalor of the majority of the film with the brightly lit, pink and polished interior of the one banally ‘normal’ house we briefly see. The screenplay’s dialogue is cliched and blindingly obvious, almost to the extent of unintentional parody at times – perhaps that’s why Rosie Day, being voiceless, comes out of it so well.
The film was shown at last year’s FrightFest, so presumably to a self-selecting audience of fans of the genre, who were, perhaps, most likely to appreciate it. Whether or not it trivialises a serious subject is likely to sharply divide opinion. As a ‘civilian’ – a non-horror fan – I found the film’s premise repellant. As a woman, I found the film’s treatment of it salacious and exploitative.
Copyright © Britflicks ltd - John Baker | Website Design - Kai Motta | Website Developer - Christian Abbott
Privacy & Cookies