Review: The Seasoning House / Cert: 18 / Director: Paul Hyett / Screenplay: Paul Hyett, Conal Palmer, Adrian Rigelsford / Starring: Rosie Day, Kevin Howarth, Sean Pertwee, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, Anna Walton / Release Date: August 12th
Former FX make-up designer Paul Hyett’s debut feature film is a brutal, pitiless thriller set in a filthy, claustrophobic environment, shot through with stark casual violence and a sense of abject hopelessness which is guaranteed to shake your faith in human nature. You’re also likely to come away impressed by Hyett’s deft direction and the taut performances in a harrowing and often disturbing film which only loses its way in its last act as it abandons its stifling set-up and drifts perilously close to becoming just another revenge runaround.
We’re in the middle of the Balkan conflict and young girls are savagely orphaned and dragged to a ramshackle, isolated house, drugged up the eyeballs and ‘seasoned’ for the pleasure of visiting thugs and soldiers. Angel (Day) is a deaf mute girl protected from direct abuse by the house’s sleazy owner Viktor (Howarth) but still forced to cook, clean and keep the girls sedated. Angel inures herself to the horror of her situation and befriends Alexa (Provost-Chalkley), but her inability to help her friend gives Angel the strength to turn the tables, especially when the ruthless Goran (Pertwee), who brought her to the house in the first place, turns up for some R&R with his gang of thugs.
The Seasoning House is gripping stuff and its violence is unflinching and uncompromising. Hyett brilliantly exploits the story’s enclosed environment, particularly in sequences where Angel squeezes through ventilation shafts and hides in crawlspaces as Goran and his henchmen start to tear the house apart. But at virtually the last moment, as if he’s exhausted the dramatic potential of the house itself, Hyett (who co-wrote the screenplay) changes tack and turns the movie into a potentially more generic chase film as Angel has to confront her remaining enemies in a much less interesting setting. The film’s sense of original vision is lost at a stroke and, whilst Goran’s fate will unnerve some, it’s a frustratingly loose end and the ambiguous conclusion is signposted a mile off. But The Seasoning House is generally a smart and accomplished film, absolutely off-limits to the faint-hearted, and Rosie Day is a real find and one to watch out for. Even Sean Pertwee, whose career has largely been a waste of a distinguished family name, ups his game here and delivers one of his better performances. It’s just a shame the movie finally lacks the courage of its convictions and throws away the USP of its title.
Extras: Commentary / Trailer / Making of feature