The atrocities of war can drive people mad, especially in the war-torn countries themselves. Laws are ignored, civilization is skewed, and people attempt to profit off of circumstances otherwise considered inhumane. Families can be disbanded at the hand of a few gunshots, changing lives with the squeezing of a trigger. I know this seems a little harsh, and we like to think regulations don’t let such things happen anymore, but while this may be mostly true, war is hell – bringing out the absolute worst in people. The Seasoning House is about one little girl’s story of survival, and the horrible things she must do to stay alive when every single day is a struggle between life and death.
In a militarized country, there exists a house where young woman are captured and forced into prostitution, and some by unfortunate means. A mute girl named Angel (Rosie Day) was going to be one of those girls, but instead becomes an assistant of sorts to the house headmaster, caring for daily duties. By day, Angel does what she’s told, but by night, she maneuvers around the house through the ventilation system, showing compassion towards the girls when she can. Angel ended up at the house after her family was murdered by a group of soldiers, and one fateful night those same soldiers show up to the whore house – setting off a deadly chain of events. Angel sees their arrival as a chance for revenge, a chance for escape, and most importantly a chance to restart her life.
The Seasoning House sports a little bit of everything, mixing brutally graphic scenes of violence with psychological drama, but it asks the viewer to trust a story that I personally couldn’t fully invest in. Angel is nothing but a young girl crawling about the walls of some run-down, dirty whore house, yet she’s able to handily make work of numerous soldiers with no sense of compassion. I’m not saying Angel’s story isn’t a jarring, disheartening one, begging for her vengeful actions – but the odds aren’t in her favor. Cue Angel picking off the dastardly soldiers one by one, admittedly with a little help, but it’s hard to buy the whole scenario. Sean Pertwee and company absolutely get what’s coming to them, but Angel’s silent assassinations make these soldiers look like a bunch of chumps – when we know they’re some mean mamma jammas.
Star Rosie Day gives a riveting performance as the mute slave Angel though, struggling to make her fellow captors a little more comfortable while caring for her own well-being first and foremost. The character shows intelligence and survival smarts, but still possesses a human side that plays towards the sympathy of the situation. Angel is a child torn from her family, forced into an unsuitable captivity, kept alive and spared from having her body sold, and has to watch group after group of young woman be shuffled in for some sicko’s sexual gratification. We can easily root for her escape, and she goes about the killing and hiding almost as a scared puppy would, with pouting, innocent doe-eyes staring in horror at the atrocities she herself is force to commit – fully understanding she has to.
As far as the horror aspects go, The Seasoning House does some vile setting up, slashing a throat and shooting an innocent here and there, but nothing can prepare us for Angel’s first kill. This large, hulking beast of a man (one of the before mentioned soldiers) is violently raping one of the “whores.” Doing her typical wall-crawling routine, Angel emerges from the ventilation system unnoticed. From here, we watch her stab the soldier repeatedly in places that shouldn’t be physically possible to show on camera. It’s brutal, violent, and scarily realistic, but sets a tonal exclamation point like a punch to the gut. Director Paul Hyett sports a grotesque visual flair that impresses and stuns, showing no signs of shying away from marrying such dark material with equally disturbing imagery.
In the end, The Seasoning House is a provocative story that strays into some pretty fantastical lands, and even with a dynamic performance from lead actress Rosie Day, your enjoyment level will revolve around just how much you can buy into such a tale. While I noted the emotional drama at play, I had a difficult time watching our villains bumble about helplessly while trying to capture a child, whether she’s crawling around the inner workings of a gutted house or not. Rosie deserves recognition for what she’s accomplished here, but as a whole, The Seasoning House left me underwhelmed and looking for something weightier to grasp onto.
While lead actress Rosie Day turns in a phenomenal performance, The Seasoning House is more bite than bark, creating an uneven and empty watch.