As I indicated in my article stating my own Top 5 films of 2012 horror films with strong parallels to reality greatly interest and appeal to me. Therefore I can say with utmost conviction that Frightfest 2012’sopening film The Seasoning House greatly impressed me.
Firstly its main setting in a brothel that is set against the backdrop of the savage mid 1990’s Balkan war feels very realistic and convincing. The fact that so many sequences, that within themselves will elicit a powerful response in the viewer due to their unflinching and direct imagery most likely happened to people in reality, as the director stated before the Frightfest screening only increases the power of the film for me.
Indeed any substantial restrained imagery would likely feel disconnected with the film’s other elements, such as tone and so detract from its impact. Furthermore this indicates a very considered approach by director Paul Hyett with regards to, for example research that we can only assume he undertook extensively before starting filming. Additionally this allowed me to identify and feel for the film’s victim character’s to a greater extent.
In what is perhaps the film’s second strongest aspect Rosie Day as the central female character Angel gives an exceptional performance as the mute girl who is all the more amazing given her inexperience as an actress. Her very engaging performance is encapsulated within her face and expressions rather than words which makes it even more impressive. She is also supported by a strong performance by Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldier’s) and Kevin Howarth, who in particular plays a more complex and important character than the film may at first suggest.
The film initially contains a subdued tone and slow feel that allows the viewer to reflect on the films images and themes whilst incorporating some early interesting cinematographic techniques, that could be interpreted as reflecting these themes and strong visuals that retain the audience’s attention. Importantly despite this slower approach in the first half it is sufficiently well written so that the narrative prevents the monotonous imagery and action’s of her character preparing the other girls from becoming too overly disinteresting. Indeed this initial monotonous, almost dreamlike feel crucially reflects the life the main character finds herself forcibly kept in and to this degree reflects its realistic and crucially, powerful elements.
In the second half of the film this slower approach is replaced by a more intense cat and mouse narrative as she escapes her captives and enacts revenge on those that have hurt her so profoundly. While perhaps not as effective as the first half and without its same deeper impact this change of direction and pace is still handled relatively impressively by Paul Hyett. We are still engaged with the story and character’s, due to their consistent performances so that the film’s conclusion still feels satisfactory.
Ultimately therefore this is a film I believe will imprint itself deeply along with the reminder of the tragic story of female victims from the real Balkan War within a large number of its audiences mind’s. It also leaves me with great interest in further work by Rosie Day and director Paul Hywett.