Sometimes horror is full of monsters, zombies and vampires. The fact that these things are paranormal and come from a place that isn’t a part of a natural world, is what makes them scary. But sometimes a horror film doesn’t have anything paranormal, and the monsters are human.
“The Seasoning House” is a deeply disturbing film. The reason it is so disturbing is because it depicts a world that not only could happen, but definitely does happen. The Balkans are a hotspot for the sex trade industry. Dubbed “The Red Road” by the media, during the fall of communism, sex trade was used to gain funds to supply weapons. During the turmoil in this part of the world, everyone felt the economic impact, including organized crime groups. Sex slave houses flourished (and they still do).
“The Seasoning House” Is the story of “Angel”, who was taken from her village as a teenager and taken to one of these forced prostitution houses. This particular house is used primarily by traveling mercenaries and military personnel. Angel is a deaf mute, and has a birthmark across her face, rendering her useless as a prostitute. However, the crime boss that runs the house, Viktor, takes pity on her and allows her to be his assistant. Her job is to clean up the prostitutes after the encounters, and drug them up when men arrive to make them more docile. The girls live chained to a bed, high on morphine/heroin until they die. Angel realizes that these girls will continue to die unless she does something.
Pretty dark stuff, huh?
The camera literally never looks away from the violence. As if the things going on are not disturbing enough when they are implied, you have to see them. Like “A Serbian Film”, this is a meditation on the violence that happens in this part of the world. Like I said before, the things that happen in this film are probably happening somewhere right now, half a world away. While “A Serbian Film” took things to the absolute extreme with its allegorical violence, “The Seasoning House” has the same effect while staying grounded in realism.
The first half of the film is hopeless, bleak, and dark. Viktor tells the girls: “You will never see outside again, this is your life now”. To prove he is serious, he kills one of the girls, as the others are forced to watch. Angel goes about her routine, and her story is told in flashbacks.
The second half of the film is a cat and mouse game. Angel not only knows the entire layout of the house, but also knows how to traverse the duct work. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot during the second half. This is a great revenge story in the vein of “I Saw The Devil”. You spend a good amount of time rooting for our hero, when she decides to fight back. I honestly cant think of a more worthy group of people to meet their doom. These men are evil, and they get what they deserve.
The camera work is superb, and first-time director Paul Hyett does a fantastic job. The characters are believable-you are constantly reminded that while these men are monsters….they are still human. The film is saturated in a grey/yellow hue. There is almost no color in the movie, minus the bright red blood. It has an effect on your senses, and adds to the bleak environment of the house.
This will not be for everyone. I know a lot of hardcore horror fans that will probably not enjoy this movie, because of the realistic brutality. But I say give it a shot. This film is a reminder that the world we live in is sometimes full of shocking violence, and humans are more frightening than anything the imagination can conjure.