The Seasoning House (2012)
Director: Paul Hyett
Writers: Paul Hyett, Conal Palmer, Helen Solomon, and Adrian Rigelsford
Starring: Rosie Day, Kevin Howarth, and Sean Pertwee

The Plot: The Seasoning House is a war story of sorts, focusing on the events that transpire when a young deaf girl named Angel, who is ripped from her own home in Eastern Europe and taken to a brothel as a prisoner of war. It turns out that she is one of the luckiest girls to come through this brothel, as she is made to clean rooms, look after the girls, and keep hidden. This slavery turns out to be far better than what the other kidnapped girls receive as captures. Normally, most girls are chained to their bed and shot up with narcotics until they are submissive enough to be continually raped by random military personnel. Things are turned upside down for Angel, however, when she runs into Vanya, a young woman who also happens to be fluent in sign language. Finally having someone to speak with, Angel finds herself learning to disobey her rulers, but these are not men to be trifled with.

The Review
If you are looking at the cover art shown up above, chances are you think this is a horror movie. I can’t blame you, it absolutely looks like a generic horror movie poster that promises a scary young girl terrifying a group of adults. You might even think this will be a random piece of J-Horror, something that tries its best to squeeze whatever life is left within the dying “creepy girl” subgenre. These are incredibly valid thoughts, but they are very far from the truth. Despite everything that the cover art tells you, this is not a horror film. The Seasoning House is best described as a war drama that becomes a thriler during its third act. So, considering how the movie tries to hide this fact via its cover art, it would seem safe to assume that this movie is awful, right? Actually, it’s not. In fact, The Seasoning House is surprisingly well made and despite a few hiccups, is a mature drama that is both shocking and tense.

While your first impression of the movie may say one thing, this is actually a fairly inspired and well crafted piece of storytelling. It has its ups and its downs in terms of style, but when The Seasoning House is on-point, it is really on-point. The movie opens with a strong series of scenes that introduce the audience to the bleak atmosphere that will encompass the entire story. Showcasing our lead who walks from one room to the next, doping up young kidnapped women, the filmmakers choose to use slow motion to give off a sense of an internal pace. With only a few short minutes of screen time, showing this young woman walking around a destroyed mansion while horrible things take place, the audience easily creeps inside of her head and they get to know a great deal about this character without having had any exposition yet. They understand that she lives in her own mind, and due to the silence that we see surrounding her, the audience is able to get a feel for what her reality actually is. A reality surrounded by loneliness, which plants the seed for what is to develop as the plot unfurls.

While The Seasoning House is most assuredly a stylish movie, one can’t help but think that it would be considered a bit more special if it were photographed in a more unique way. Especially during the outdoor war sequences which are briefly shown during the early moments of the movie. Granted, this is a film that tries to capture reality, but due to the main protagonist being deaf, it seems as if the film would be better served as a much more visual experience. One movie that certainly should be brought up during any discussion of this film would be Come and See. Both films focus on European wars and the trauma that is dealt upon young people who are caught in the midst of the chaos, but one film is obviously superior over the other. Come and See delivers the visual feast that forces the audience to step inside of its characters, while The Seasoning House instead keeps us at an arm’s distance. We know that this is a movie, and although it certainly has power, we aren’t in grave fear of what will happen next. Granted, The Seasoning House does feature some explicitly brutal violence, including a throat slashing that looks incredibly realistic, it could have been a bit more exhausting, something that one expects from a movie focusing on the horrors of war.

The movie has minor problems throughout, there is no doubt of this. Its largest problem would be that it resides a bit on the predictable side. The beats within the film, while taking us into some very interesting directions, are very noticeable. When we are introduced to all of the main players, it becomes obvious that the main protagonist will develop sympathy for the one girl who knows how to speak in sign language. As the movie goes along, the only thing we can be sure of is a dark and foreboding future. While it seems plausible from the start that the movie may develop in such a way that our main protagonist will finally escape and find happiness… it seems more likely that we can expect extreme violence and dark content in her future. The movie does not disappoint in this regard. It is full of extremely grim and troublesome content. Although the cover for this movie may make it seem like a horror story, this is a title that goes into directions that are much nastier than your average piece of modern horror.

The Conclusion
While The Seasoning House is far from perfect, it is far better than a cursory glance might lead you to believe. It is a film that carries with it some disturbing elements, but for those who can handle it, it’s an experience worth looking into. Solid storytelling, great performances, and a “pull no punches” attitude makes this one worth searching out. It gets a very high three out of five. It comes close to the four rating, but it is a recommend that I can’t share for all audiences.