Appellate Judge Tom Becker lived in a seasoning house on Paprika Lane.
Get out while you can.
Sexual abuse and subjugation of women in war-torn countries is a sickening reality. Rape as a weapon is a horrifying truth.
So then, what better subject for a horror movie than a thriller about war-time rape victims? Sounds like fun, right?
Pulling from the rape-revenge playbooks of I Spit on Your Grave, The Last House on the Left, and Ms. 45, The Seasoning House, set in the Balkans in the late '90s, gives us deaf-mute "Angel" (Rosie Day, Sixteen) who has been kidnapped by soldiers and taken to a make-shift brothel. All the women at the brothel have been similarly kidnapped, and they are repeatedly raped, abused, and shot up with (presumably) heroin. They are a miserable, underfed, underwashed, dead-eyed lot.
"Angel" is not Angel's real name; she was christened Angel by Viktor (Kevin Howarth, The Last Horror Movie), the smooth but slimy guy who runs the brothel. Viktor keeps Angel as his personal slave/sex toy, and even claims he loves her (she can read lips, apparently), so while she tends the other girls and shoots them up, she's not actively engaging in sex acts with a parade of nasty, sadistic men; plus she's got a red birthmark on her face, which I guess is supposed to make her less appealing for the clients, even though the other girls all sport bruises, cuts, and bloodstains.
Because she's a waifish teen, Angel can maneuver around the house through crawlspaces in the walls. She befriends one of the girls who knows sign language and starts crawlspace-visiting her, and plotting for the two of them to escape.
But, one look at the dimly lit brothel—it's got that low-light, almost industrial look that's hallmarked low-budget horror movies for the past decade or so—and you know that there will be no happy endings. In fact, you know that as grim and depressing as the set-up has been, you're not watching a docu-drama about subjugated women. You're watching a horror movie of the torture-porn variety, and sooner or later, some major bloodletting has to happen.
Well, the major bloodletting portion of our program appears in the form of an even more sadistic soldier, Goran (Sean Pertwee, Dog Soldiers), and his band of psychopaths, including an obviously-deranged-hulking-giant called Ivan. One look at Ivan, and you know that Angel's little sign-language friend—who's already suffering with a broken pelvis from an earlier dreadful encounter—is doomed.
Let the good times roll!
Yes, The Seasoning House is yet another gross, mind-numbing horror film that revels in the abuse and degradation of women for the bulk of its running time, only to give our first-and-final girl a chance at comeuppance at the end. That Angel ridiculously takes out the equivalent of an entire platoon through animal cunning and sheer luck is somehow supposed to exhilarate us after the film's depressing and yucky first hour, filled with rapings and druggings. It doesn't. In fact, the more horror movie-ish this becomes, the more offensive it all feels.
With its seemingly high-minded subtext about war victims, The Seasoning House reminded me of another atrociously back-handed misogynistic film I reviewed a few years back: Penance, which was ostensibly about female genital mutilation, but was really about watching a woman writhe in agony as her genitals were mutilated. While it was one of those hideous "found footage" monstrosities—unlike The Seasoning House, which at least has its narrative tropes straight—it had the same dank, low-light look as this film, and also took itself very seriously. The hybrid of Amnesty International and Freddy Krueger is supposed to be startling, but it ultimately feels condescending, and since Day was something like 17 when she played Angel, it's disturbing in all the wrong ways.
The The Seasoning House looks and sounds just fine on Blu-ray. The only supplement, other than a trailer, is a behind-the-scenes featurette.
The Seasoning House is well-made for what it is, but what it is is exploitation garbage. It's unpleasant and unremarkable torture porn.
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