Soul-Stealing Cinema: The Seasoning House
I heard rumblings of it at first. People who knew I liked my cinema dark and nihilistic, telling me I needed to see The Seasoning House. Thankfully, in my line of work, I get a lot of good recommendations from people quite regularly. The drawback is, these films get added to a list that is already a mile long. I added Seasoning House to my list of things to eventually watch, and got on with life. Wasn’t sure when the opportunity would arise to watch it, but never forgot about it. But this week, I finally had a moment to sit down with this movie, and damn, were they right. This film is twisted and sickening. Keep in mind, much like when I talked about A Serbian Film, I am not telling you to see The Seasoning House. I am simply letting you know it is very disturbing, and mines some issues most would rather spend their lives avoiding. It was a powerful film, but it was also utterly upsetting and unsettling. If you are a woman, this movie will make you ill. If you are a man, this movie will make you want to rip off your penis and revolt.
Yes. It is one of those.
The oddest part is that it was all women who recommended I watch it.
There are certain films you will see in your lifetime that will enrage you. They will make you angry and they will make you feel powerless. If you are human, they will also turn your stomach. There are films that will go out of their way to evoke that emotion in you. The Seasoning House is one of those movies. It wants to jump behind you when something terrible is happening, and force you to watch it by holding open your eyelids with greasy, stinking fingers. There WILL be moments of this film that make you angry and enraged. Make you want to scream in disgust. But I, for one, know that some art needs to muster those emotions. That does not make it any less “art”.
I want to reiterate, this is not me endorsing or condoning this movie. But I feel like movies like this are in place to (not only offend, but to also) incite conversation. An open discussion about how this stuff really goes on, and by shutting off the movie or walking away from it saying it’s trash is to deny the issues within the movie. In this case, young girls being forced into prostitution. If you are already cringing at the idea, as most of us would, walk away now. That is but the tip if the iceberg. It gets far worse.
So Seasoning House is a place where young girls are drugged and forced to be prostitutes for local military. The film follows Angel. One young girl who was taken from her home after her family was killed by the very men who kidnapped her. She has a birth mark on her face that some see as unsightly, so she ends up being the assistant to the scumbag who runs the house. What the assistant does is go from room to room, putting makeup on the girls and drugging them with heroin so they can endure the sexual horrors that await them. Oh, and did I mention Angel is deaf and mute? Yes, of course she is. So Seasoning House is a film that follows a mute deaf girl as she goes from room to room, shooting up and tying up teen girls so they can endure being raped and beaten for hours by fucked up soldiers and military personnel. I filed this movie under “soul-stealing cinema” for a reason.
What I failed to mention is that Angel also goes into the rooms to tend the young girls AFTER their encounters. Often, they are covered in blood and beaten to near-death. In some cases, they do not survive. Sickening and bleak stuff, to say the least.
The first half of the film is filled with very little dialogue. We just go with Angel, from room to room, and we see how she just does all this to stay alive. But we also need to understand, initially, she is as bad as the bad guys. We cannot forget that. The heroine may help, but she is still enabling all this. We also see flash backs to when she was taken and what happened to her family. It is an overall unpleasant experience, but it is a film that wants to be just that. It wants us to squirm in our seats. It wants us to be sickened, because that is what you should be by a subject such as this. There is a scene in the first five minutes when a young girl has her throat very realistically slashed. As the movie progressed, I realized how lucky that girl was oppose to the girls who survived.
This leads me to my next point about The Seasoning House. The violence.
If all horror films could do violence as realistically as this film does, horror would be better for it. But I say that with some hesitance as well. When little girls are being sexually assaulted and beaten to death during a rape, I don’t think I want my violence palpable. I almost need there to be a sense of detachment from that. Seasoning House does not detach from that. If anything, it is almost unflinching. There is one particular segment in the middle of the film that is almost unbearable to watch. I wont say much more about the plot, other than Angel eventually turns the tables a bit, but the tonal change in the last half hour almost feels comical when compared to the perversion of the first half of the film. When I said this film will enrage you, I meant it.
Remember, the film never looks away. It is important for you to know that. There will be scenes you expect (and quietly hope) the camera pans away from during a particular act of violence. Yet, it never does. Yet, once the violence shifts from happening to the girls to happening to the guys, it is oddly validating. That was another juxtaposition I found strange to try to balance in me as I watched this. Am I even allowed to cheer on any violence at all at that point? Have too many lines been crossed for even vengeance to be justified? I don’t mean on Angel’s part. Of course vengeance was justified for her. In this case, I mean for us. The audience. But again, do not forget. In the first half of the movie, she was willingly shooting up girls with heroine and tying them up to be raped by soldiers. There are no heroes in this film. Never lose sight of that. Yes, Angel is a victim of circumstance, but she also had free will. The most rational of us would have chosen death over doing that to someone else.
At least I like to HOPE so.
The final thing I want to say about The Seasoning House (and easily the most complimentary) would be towards Rosie Day who plays Angel in this movie. This girl is nothing short of remarkable. A role most adults would not be able to stomach, and she delivers it in such a believable manner that there are scenes you feel sick. Even though most people will not see this film, this girl’s star is on the rise. Mark my words.
So what should you walk away from this article thinking? Should you see it shouldn’t you? That is not what this is about. I simply wanted to let you know I saw it, and it fucked me all up. What happens next is up to you…