Saturday 15 June 2013

The Seasoning House


Written by Paul Hyett & Conal Palmer
and Adrian Riglesford
from an original idea by Helen Solomon
Directed by Paul Hyett

Rosie Day

The Seasoning House marks Paul Hyett's debut as director and its an impressive calling card. To date Hyett as plied his trade as a Special Make Up Effects Designer, but with this bleak tale of Balkan butchery he has fashioned a movie that's as believable as it is horrific and with a thrilling action twist too.

The story follows Angel, a young pretty girl, deaf and mute, who we meet as she has been rounded up amongst a bunch of her pretty peers, by a gang of violent pimps. The seasoning house, or brothel, to which the girls are taken is a remote, bleak, run down building where thugs keep the girls imprisoned. Violence is the norm in this fractured society with one of the girls being horrifically slaughtered on arrival, in front of her friends, to terrify them into obedience. The men who frequent the brothel are either militia or corrupt officialdom and with the girls routinely drugged to ensure compliance, the abuse to which they are subject is harrowing. Notwithstanding the tale's sexual backdrop, female nudity is almost completely avoided, as the brutal storytelling avoids gratuitous sensationalism or exploitation. Sadly however, the background to the story is all too authentic. Hyett has commented with the benefit of well researched authority that in conflicts, epecially civil wars, the rape of women alongside their being corralled and sold/trafficked to pimps and brothel keepers is a practice that is as old as lawlessness itself.

The role of Angel is an astonishing performance from newcomer Rosie Day. With her character’s disablilites she is a "flawed" girl who is not sent to work alongside her peers. Her task within the house is to prepare the girls for their work, cleaning them and ensuring that the filthy heroin injections she is forced to administer keeps them stupefied. There is not one good man in the movie. Kevin Howarth is Viktor, the brothel owner, in a performance of thinly veiled charm that masks his cynical brutality. Sean Pertwee plays Goran, a local militia leader, who combines the swagger and bombast of modest officialdom, supported by ruthless barbarity. An emaciated waif of a girl, Angel has learned her way around the labyrinth of ventilation shafts of the dilapidated building and following a thrilling David v Goliath moment in which she avenges the murder of one of the girls, the plot develops from a violent morality tale into an innovative chase story, as the slender heroine avoids retribution, hiding amongst the buildings cavities.

Kevin Howarth

With such an accomplished background in horrific effects, (it was Hyett who spawned the crawlers in Neil Marshall’s The Descent) well photographed violence is to be expected. The movie's backdrop of broken Europe echoes the harsh continent of Eli Roth's first two Hostel pictures, showing a world where human life is a cheap consumable commodity and where quite literally anything goes, for a price. To the director's credit however, he has put story first, seeking to place the  effects on the back burner.  Where gore is required the use of prosthetics is shocking and innovative with some seamless finishing touches of CGI that perfect the imagery. And as much as the visceral visuals are stomach churning, excellent technical attention is also paid to the film’s sound effects, which combined with Paul E. Francis' haunting soundtrack, complete the realism of the on-screen horror.

If ever there was a film that defines the phrase "power corrupts", this is it.  Hyett's helming debut makes for a troubling, watchable, well told story with the true horror of his tale being not the well-crafted special effects, but rather the chilling realisation that places like the seasoning house actually exist. The movie is an almost perfect combination of action thriller and credible violent psychological horror. It is a must see for genre fans and if you can catch it on the big screen, even better.

In selected cinemas from June 21st

My feature article on Paul Hyett - Directing The Seasoning House can be found here

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