The Seasoning House – Review

Worth seeing: as an obscenely bloody and narratively messy thriller that revels too much in sadistic violence to retain the moral high ground
Director:Paul Hyett
Featuring:Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Alec Utgoff, Anna Walton, Daniel Vivian, David Lemberg, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, Jemma Powell, Kevin Howarth, Laurence Saunders, Ryan Bell
Length:90 minutes
Certificate:18
Country:UK
Released:21st June 2013

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Viktor (Kevin Howarth) runs a brothel in wartorn Bosnia. Serbian soldiers frequent the dilapidated house to satisfy their sexual urges, with young women, kidnapped from their homes and kept drugged and chained to their beds.

One teenager, known as Angel (Rosie Day) is a deaf mute. Rather than being raped and beaten daily, her job is to clean the other girls’ wounds and administer the drugs that sedate them during their attacks.

She dreams of escaping, but for now, the only escape is to move around the house, unseen, through the gaps between the walls, floors and ceilings.

When the soldier (Sean Pertwee) who murdered her mother in cold blood arrives with his men, Angel sees her chance for revenge. Can a resourceful deaf mute girl hold her own against a unit of ruthless, highly trained soldiers?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

It’s certainly a brave subject to tackle for a low budget British horror – it’s a hard sell, that’s for sure. “A deaf mute girl who drugs kidnapped young women so that they can be raped by brutal soldiers, seeks to avenge the cold-blooded murder of her mother.”

This is not a family comedy. It’s about as bloody as films get, so bloody that even the most hardened cinema-goers might find some of the blood-letting tough to watch. And it’s tough to see who the target audience might be. Such vicious violence would normally be the realm of older teenaged boys, but they’d want male heroes – while no parents would want their young daughters looking to Angel as a role model.

Against the backdrop of a sensible story, such violence can be excused, but when so much of the film seems to revel in the sexual humiliation and degradation of women, even if the inexorable direction of the plot is the emancipation of our heroine and the tormentors, one by one, get their just desserts, it’s still as uncomfortable to watch as it is difficult to justify.

But the film’s biggest problem is that the story is not sensible. On almost every level, the narrative is a mess. The motives of Viktor are inconsistent and lack clarity, both in relation specifically towards Angel and more generally towards the others, whose lives he values more than his own – even though he treats them like objects and could always kidnap more if he needs to. There are too many perverse coincidences. Too many innocent people die for the film to maintain any moral high ground. Too many characters act out of character – or illogically. And to centre the entire film on a teenaged, deaf-mute orphan girl? Really?

It’s true that rape is used as a weapon of war, but generally to suppress the enemy by controlling them, rather than to give bored soldiers something to do. And while it’s true that war is tough and bad things happen, such a hateful film is not the most effective or intelligent way to get across such a message.

Hearing British actors speaking English in a peculiar accent rarely works and it doesn’t here. It’s so off-putting. If they wanted to make a film set in the Balkans, either cast actors from the Balkans and give us subtitles or cast Sean Pertwee and by calling him Goran, and giving us a suitable caption, let us assume he is Serbian.

Some of the fight choreography, often in confined spaces, is effective and you’ll wince in sympathy or even pain, and a small budget has clearly been spent well, but none of this excuses the narrative failings that leave you feeling as cold and as dirty as the antagonists.