Screamfest 2013 Review: The Seasoning House

The Seasoning House is the kind of movie that a lot of audiences find depressing, and with Screamfest audiences that’s saying a lot. I actually don’t find it depressing at all. It is about a sobering, awful real life situation, but I find it valuable to illuminate and explore these kinds of subjects. The Seasoning House delivers a thrilling, cathartic exploration of such issues.

This movie is about a military rape house in the Balkans in 1996, so I get it if you don’t want to subject yourself to that. I assume you already agree that rape is bad, and trafficking young girls for rape is bad on top of bad, so you don’t need a movie to convince you. We may need more awareness for such atrocities, but I believe you are a good person, sensitive to worldwide causes and you don’t need to take any cinematic medicine to prove your sympathy.

The reason to see The Seasoning House is that it is an expertly crafted thriller and manages to show a heartfelt side of the issue. Angel (Rosie Day) is deaf and mute but she helps the ringleaders maintain the girls (you can’t even call it caretaking), either in return for some protection, or simply to survive in the house at all. Her relationship with one of the new prisoners is really touching, and complicated because Rosie is complacent in some evils as much as she is one of the prisoners herself.

Then it becomes The People Under the Stairs vs. The Military, which I mean as a compliment. Angel does reach a breaking point and writer/director Paul Hyett crafts an escalating battle between Angel and the soldiers. The climax of the movie, which I might count starting at the midway point 45 minutes in, is relentless. Angel’s ability to move between the walls becomes an advantage against her burly aggressors.

Nothing can undo the horror Angel and these girls have suffered. We’d just rather she escape than remain stuck there, and it’s satisfying to see her avenge herself and the less fortunate girls against some of the creepiest militia men, but there’s no real happy ending. That gives The Seasoning House a more evolved perspective than, say, I Spit On Your Grave. At least it understands that this isn’t about revenge or balance. It’s survival and elimination of evil, only inasmuch as one survivor can make a difference. Few things are scarier than rape, making The Seasoning House the scariest movie at Screamfest by default.

There were a few camera effects I wasn’t sure about, some speed ramping that might not have been necessary because the chase was already effective in real time. That may come down to personal preference and aesthetics. This, along with The Hunted, have been the standout discoveries of Screamfest and I definitely want to see what Hyett does next. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.