Ginger Nuts of Horror
THE SEASONING HOUSE (2012)
Every now and then, in our weekly quest, we encounter something so distinctly bleak and miserable that is stands out from what – I suppose – must be considered the standard degree of bleak and miserable. Films like Megan is Missing and Thanatomorphose are so hopeless and unpleasant that it was kind of hard to lift myself and cheer up a bit.
And so it was with the distinctly grim The Seasoning House.
The story is set in the Yugoslav block – it's never quite specified but I wanted to say Serbia, with maybe shades of A Serbian Film? - and follows Angel, a young deaf girl who has inherited the unfortunate role of effectively running the house that gives the movie its title. Her task is to keep the girls kidnapped and trapped there in good condition – as far as it goes – so they can be used and abused by groups of soldiers travelling through the area. The owner of the house, Viktor, has some rather confused feelings for Angel – while the other girls are nothing more than a service to him, he says the he loves Angel and wants to take her away.
Angel is deaf, so of course she's only able to take in some of what is being said, although her lipreading is pretty good. When a new girl, Vanya, comes into the house who can speak sign language, her isolation is lessened somewhat and a connection develops between them. Angel's intimate knowledge of the house helps her to give her new friend more than some, but still her key task is to dope the girls up so they can cope with what happens to them. However Vanya doesn't last long in the brutal surrounds, and Angel has finally had enough.
The Seasoning House is not a perfect movie, by any stretch – the pacing is a little off in places, some of the military performances are pretty cliché and while the grimy visuals tend to work well, there are times it's hard to figure out exactly what's going on. But with all that said, it drips with cloying atmosphere and certainly has an ending that is tense. The gore and abuse is not presented very graphically, but what we do see is plenty enough in the hideous context and setting, and the lead performance from Rosie Day certainly struck me as a strong one also.
It also interested me as it's a movie that cover ground I don't think I've seen before – I'm sure there are others looking at this area of sex slavery out there, but it was the first I've encountered and it gave the subject a treatment that was pretty serious and did have an emotional heart. Again, probably not the most cutting commentary on the subject, but it did feel like it was done with an element of reality and of respect. It certainly could have been more outrageous and sensationalist than it was, and the finale is tense and uncomfortable to watch for sure.
RATING: 7.5/10. I was about to say there's plenty to like here, but maybe it's more of a case that there's plenty of quality to see. Gloomy, morose and unrelentingly bleak, The Seasoning House is tough to watch in places but will keep you in your seat and watching for sure. A solid entry into the pantheon of the extreme in the UK.