England's answer to Greg Nicotero moves away from the special make up effects and goes behind the camera to bring us this harrowing tale of Angel (Day, in a breath-taking debut), a girl ripped from her home during the war in the Balkans.
In war torn zones, military are kidnapping girls and selling them into the sex trade where they are sold to militia and civilians. Deaf and mute Angel is one of these girls who sees her mother murdered in front of her before being delivered to a brothel where she becomes the personal sex slave to its owner. A birthmark on her face makes her tainted goods so the owner, Viktor (Howarth), uses her to dope the girls with heroin to make them more amenable to their visitors, then clean them up afterwards. She spends her time away from the prying eyes of her captors crawling through the limited space of the ventilation system. Until an unplanned incident brings her head to head with the men who took her from her family.
Make no odds, The Seasoning House is not a comfortable watch but it is impossible to take your eyes from it. Based on true events of atrocities that happened during the war, Hyett brings us into a degenerate world of men willing to pay for sex with tied up, drugged women and pay extra to be rough with them. Some of the girls do not survive some of their "customers". The performances, especially from Day (watch out for her, she will be a name to take notice of) had to be good to make the film believable and to care about Angel. Howarth gives us a dark turn of a man just as at ease plunging a knife into the neck of a young girl to simply make a point as he is pouring a shot of whiskey.
Hyett builds a relationship between Angel and Viktor that enables the power dynamic between the two of them to change during the film. This is integral to some of the major turns in the story and needed to be handled delicately so as not to be too in your face about it but also sustain a sense of believability with the interaction of the two.
The Seasoning House is violent and gripping but never feels exploitative which was needed to ensure you retained a high level of empathy for Angel. It's hard to use the word enjoyed with this film but it is a superb piece of art that fully deserves wider recognition. If you get the chance and can stomach something more hard hitting than your usual Hollywood attempts and horror then I highly recommend this film.
A tragic tale of love, loss and death, this is one film you won't forget in a hurry.