The Seasoning House...a review by Wee Willie Wicked.
Chilling and realistic, brutal as hell and mostly disturbing, The Seasoning House is a culmination of cruelty and suffering that even the hardest of horror fans will at times find hard to stomach. Basically, in a nutshell, this is Hostel without the tools.
In the war torn Balkans, deaf mute Angel (Rosie Day) is inadvertently forced to watch her family slayed by murderous thug soldiers lead by a heartless commander Goran (Sean Pertwee). This is military business as usual for his squad, with even the most hesitant of legionnaires forced to participate. It is also the source of commodities for Goran’s illegitimate side business; a brothel operated by the equally ruthless and cold hearted Viktor (Kevin Howarth).
At this whorehouse, a dark and dirty place with boarded up windows and scampering rats, the girls are held captive, forced to comply and perform through the use of involuntary drug addiction.
Angel, her sordid past told early on through effective flashbacks, has now been assigned as, for lack of a better word, maid and primary pharmaceutical deliverer. In a warped sort of way, this is a good thing since it keeps her from being one of the bound to the bed products.
In this capacity, she preps the girls before each typically violent, painful and callous encounter, injecting them with a hypodermic needle filled with heroin and gingerly applying eye shadow. Afterward, using an unclean sponge drawn from a rusty bucket, she soothingly wipes the blood away. Far from unfeeling and uncaring, herself a prisoner and the sole object of Viktor’s whim affections, she has no choice but to accept the atrocities.
Nighttime finds her wandering the crawlspaces between the walls, struggling and wriggling and able to maneuver from room to room undetected, where at times she exits from behind the ventilation grates (this is the film’s initial revelation and in the opening scenes we see her accomplish this).
Far from unfeeling and powerless to aid, she maintains sanity in this atrocious, vile existence by keeping it bottled up deep within and simply going through Viktor’s directed daily routine.
When newcomer Vanya (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) realizes that Angel is deaf and begins communicating with her through sign language, Angel lets her guard down and befriends, even bringing and sharing a little piece of heaven in the form of the chocolate she keeps hidden away under her mattress.
But, make no mistake, life here is meager and pitiless as Angel watches, so close but yet so far, from behind the room’s metal grate while Vanya is subjected to chronic and vicious rapes that leave her bloody and shattered. After one such encounter, Vanya’s pelvis is broken and Viktor is forced to summon Andre, a neighborhood doctor who may harbors ethics and pity, but is also unable to help since the establishment is well protected and far-reaching. After delicately scolding Viktor about taking better care of the girls, he (in a creepy, grin filled shot reminiscent to the visiting truant officer in A Clockwork Orange) lies to Vanya, hides the true extent of her injuries and telling the poor girl that she has only suffered a little tearing. An aware Angel wants desperately to assist her new friend, but fearfully abstains, knowing it futile.
But when the ones responsible for her abduction and family’s demise pay a visit, her plan of revenge takes full root. Will it lead her on a path to escape and freedom?
Throughout the first two thirds of the film, Hyett sets the tone, making it impossible for the audience to turn away and taking them on an almost ethereal journey that nearly implies it is nothing more than some horrible bad dream. But, the final act yanks this away, exchanged for a high suspense filled game of cat and mouse.
Raw, powerful and harsh, the film, carefully crafted by director Paul Hyett, is not for everyone and many will find it revolting. However, this is not to say that the film is in no way, shape or form terrible. On the contrary, the film is excellent and filled with especially moving performances.
Kevin Howarth, as the imposing Viktor, initially will have the audience despising his character, but will eventually turn them into rooting fans. And, Dominique Provost-Chalkley is exceptional as Vanya, a role that can only be described as grueling and arduous.
Regardless, it is Rosie Day’s Angel that commands attention, something rather difficult when dialogue is forbidden, and she clearly conveys emotion that the audience will comprehend and feel without the use of words.
Uncompromising, The Seasoning House is an unrelenting glimpse into the sexual slavery trade that is probably closer to fact than fiction and for those who view the film, be aware, while the film may have ended, the memories will most assuredly remain.