Thursday, 30 August 2012

REVIEW - The Possession ★ ★

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan & Kyra Sedgewick
Written by Juliet Snowden & Stiles White
Certification UK 15
Runtime 92 minutes
Directed by Ole Bornedal

From producer Sam Raimi comes a new story based on true events about the possession of a young girl.  What was really missing from the horror film schedule for the year was a good possession film as we just haven't had enough of them.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a man, freshly divorced, just moved into a new house, only gets to see his kids on the weekends and wants another shot at the big time as a basketball coach.  The only interactions with his ex wife are confrontational and he feels he is being distanced from his eldest daughter.  During one of his weekends, whilst trying to bond with them they stumble across a garage sale where his youngest, Em (a stunning performance from Natasha Calis), finds a interesting looking box to which she is drawn to.

After opening what seems to be an box that was designed to not be opened she soon becomes withdrawn, angry and inexplicably attached to the box, not wanting to be separated from it at any time.  Clyde notices what is happening and tries to find reasoning behind it but it isn't long before he suspects what is really behind the change in his little girl and seeks help to stop what appears to be a possession before her actions become fatal.

What we have here is a run of the mill possession film, complete with the main character looking up exorcism videos, bible passages and newspaper articles to help him understand what is going on. For me it was an unnecessary film adding to an already over full section of horror.  All the scares were ones I'd seen before, the story line was nothing inventive or unique, just providing a new way for the possession to begin.

The performances were all good, although Kyra Sedwick's performance just made you want her to be killed off at the earliest opportunity but the performances were not enough to raise this above anything beyond mediocre.  Hearing it had Sam Raimi as producer I had hopes that this would be something a little different and give us a new take on the child being possessed films.  Sadly this was not the case.

There will be a few moments here that will have some cinema goers jumping and there will be plenty of people that like this as it's a very commercially made film and will find an audience.  Without wanting to be condescending to those viewers, it is likely to be people who have limited exposure to horror films (although probably think they're horror aficionados) and are less fussy about what is being presented to them.  For me this, as I've probably laboured on a bit too much about, just didn't give me anything I hadn't seen before and better.

I think the thing that upset me most about this film was the fact is was so incredibly average.  Not one to change the face of horror films but it will be one that will be quickly forgotten.

Frightfest Review - The Thompsons ★ ★ ★

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Elizabeth Henstridge, Daniel O'Meara & Mackenzie Firgens
Written by Ian Clark
Certification UK 18
Runtime 84 minutes
Directed by The Butcher Brothers

Think you know your vampires?  Think again.  The Hamiltons are no ordinary strain of vampire as they have not been turned.  In a world where vampires procreate, they were born with a disease which left them blood thirsty killers.  Killers that can set foot in daylight but are also just as susceptible to pain and death as anyone else. Following an incident in America that left a trail of dead bodies, they changed their name to The Thompsons and went on the run, ending up in England.  Having to lay low and keep themselves out of the public eye, they can't kill easily so it is here they hope to find the help they need in order to survive, as without blood they will starve to death.  All they have is a name, Manderson and a town, Ludlow.  Francis (Cory Knauf) makes his way to the seemingly sleepy town in search of the mysterious Manderson.  Once found, he finds that the stranger he went in search of is the head of another vampire family, the Stuarts and soon suspects that the kindness he was shown may have darker, ulterior motives lurking beneath.

The Butcher Brothers follow up their award winning original vampire flick with another blast of sex and death.  They bravely take the vampire genre and break the rules to allow them to make the film they want to.  One of the problems with horror is, even though these creatures don't exist, us viewers are very particular about them following the right rules (zombies walk, they don't run).  Vampires are no exception - the rules are they can only go out at night, they can't see their reflection and can only be killed by a stake through the heart and have a severe disliking to crosses.  Well in this film not a single one of those rules turns up.  Which leads to the question are these people actually vampires or is the disease that is referred to simply one that makes them vampiric in certain ways.  The only ways in which they appear to adhere to vamp lore is the drinking of blood to survive and that real food makes them sick, so they don't eat.  But this doesn't detract from the film as it enables a story line that doesn't become shackled with the burdens of moving only within the restrictive rules.  Rules are there for breaking and if it works then does it matter? 

The Thompsons is a fast paced, beautifully shot, deliciously violent film with decent performances from all the cast, including a nicely broody turn from Knauf, that relies more on the style than the substance . The dialogue at points is a little weak and the story line is fairly simple but where some films would be broken by this, The Butcher Brothers have managed to still craft a highly entertaining film that sticks two fingers up at the "clever" writers, saying we don't need a string of highly intuitive speeches, we need fun.  David Mamet once commented that you don't need good dialogue or good characters, you just need to make the audience want to know what happens next.  For me this film did just that.  Could it have done with rounding the characters better?  In fairness yes is the answer, the Stuarts were fairly one dimensional with the exception of Riley (the lovely Elizabeth Henstridge) who wasn't born with the same need for blood.  The rest, including the patriarch, were given very little else.

It was these areas that stopped me giving The Thompsons the four stars I really wanted to as it entertained me as much as other four star films, but I felt that it breezed through a lot of the film with an almost acknowledged disregard for, in film terms, the finer things in life.  Such as the the exposition which all came at the beginning and the end and left very little for the middle where the film just kind of drifted along.  All in all you could do a lot worse than giving this film a go, it has enough about it to entertain you (which at the end of the day is generally a film's purpose) just don't expect a masterpiece.  This is one certainly not for the True Blood crowd and for this I am truly thankful.  So if you like your vampires to come without the teenage angst of American TV shows but does contain bucket loads of blood (special mention should go to the high quality special effects seeing as the shoot was very restrictive time wise) then this is your baby.

Fright Fest Day 5

And so it is here.  The last day of the festival and a return to normal life tomorrow. 

The last walk to Euston underground to embark upon the Northern Line to a day of terror, the last time we'd go past the little coffee shop which enthusiastically advertises "the best coffee in London" (incidentally we decided to stop there the next day before going home and the coffee was very good indeed, as was the full English breakfast) as we carry our passes proudly around our necks for the last time this year.

Today carries a number of lasts but also a number of firsts, we were treated to UK premieres of After and Chained, the European premiere of The Possession and the world premiere of Tower Block.

But to kick us off was a preview of Jen and Sylvia Soska's (The Twisted Twins) new work, American Mary.  They came up on stage to introduce the film and were a welcome mash of beauty and insanity as they spoke to the crowd.  In these two we potentially have the new darlings of Fright Fest - if they didn't get numerous marriage proposals I'll be amazed.  But they also have the talent to back it up, in American Mary we have a stunning look into the world of body modification, prostitution, revenge and where people will go to fulfill their desires. 

Out for a short breath of fresh air and then back to the seats for more of a fantasy next in After.  The tale of two people involved in a car accident and what happens to them after.  It was an all too simple premise with not a lot going on.  Picked up a little towards the end but weak performances and shoddy scripting made this one of my least favourites of the weekend.

Thankfully the wonderful Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David, brought her new film, Chained for us.  This was an intensely disturbing look at how monsters are made and brought the best performance I have seen from Vincent D'Onofrio since his powerful turn as Private Pile in Full Metal Jacket.  Jennifer was also incredibly humble and welcoming when talking to people. 

Everything seemed on a very tight schedule today as again it was a very short break and back in for Possession.  Very Hollywood, very average and very pointless. Very disappointing seeing as it had Sam Raimi attached as the producer.  So swiftly onto the last film of the night, the second of the fest for writer James Moran (Cockneys vs Zombies), Tower Block.  This was certainly a more serious film than Cockneys where a group of residents, that are the last in the block to be rehoused, start getting picked off one by one by a deadly accurate sniper.  Whilst the film had flaws, they could be forgiven as it was a very entertaining an tense affair. A good closer for the weekend.

It was straight off to the after party where I drank with the Pierce brothers (Deadheads), the Twisted Twins and Katherine Isabelle (star of American Mary).  Shuffled off back to the hotel at around 2.30am and that was that.  Fright Fest the 13th was done. 

It was a weekend full of ups and downs, guests aplenty, meeting up with familiar faces, getting to know new ones, less beer than I thought and some truly stunning films.  It's sad to say its over but the memories will linger.  So until next year Fright Fest.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Fright Fest Day 4

The normal bounce I'd been getting out of bed with was slowly beginning to fade.  The 4 - 5 hours of sleep a night along with a diet fit only for the dead are slowly starting to take their toll.  But let that not stop me. After all, today is a new day and my excitement levels have creeped back up after yesterday's disappointments.

No needing to queue for discovery screen tickets today, it's main screen all the way baby!! After a very average breakfast at Cafe Rouge it back to Leicester Square and straight into the screen.  After a hello and quick chat with some of the people we knew (everyone here is incredibly friendly) we took our seats, the lights went down and the cast and crew of the first film, The Thompsons, were introduced to us.  The film itself was an entertaining vampire flick.  Slightly shoddy dialogue but an enjoyable watch none the less.

Met a bunch of the cast and crew in the foyer afterwards, the make up effects guy was excellent to chat to, and got a picture with all of the English cast of vampires (pics will be coming up in a separate blog once).  Bumped into the director of the excellent Seasoning House again and I was incredibly chuffed that he remembered me and took the effort to say hi to me rather than the other way around.  It's moments like this that make this festival so special.

Next it was a slight change of pace with Andy Nyman's Quiz From Hell (he's been cast in Kick Ass don't you know).  An incredibly hard quiz but lots of fun. I did okay.  Then we had the Horror Channel's short film showcase.  A very diverse bunch of films from Axelle Carolyn's The Halloween Kid (which I put a bit of money into and got the pleasure of seeing my name up on the Frightfest screen!!) to Un Jour Sang, a French offering that without showing anything was probably the most brutal of the shorts. Overall a good selection and some talent to look out for in the future.

Got my picture with Andy Nyman afterwards - cool!!

After a short break we were back in for the UK Premier of Rec director, Jaume Balaguero's Sleep Tight.  This was an excellent, disturbing look into the psyche of one man's unhappiness and the things it makes him do.  So far today was a complete turnaround of Saturday.  And it was going to continue in that vain, well for me at least.

Berberian Sound Studio was up next, one I had really been looking forward to.  This was certainly not to everyone's taste but was a supremely well crafted love letter to Italian horror and the way in which it is put together.  Anyone looking for a film with a normal, or even any, narrative will need to go elsewhere.  I enjoyed it and after speaking with the director, who was only too keen to discuss his film (I just wish we had longer) it helped gain, not necessarily sense of the film, an understanding of where the director was coming from.

There was a sudden change of pace with the next film, the UK premiere of the very American Sinister.  Early buzz surrounding this film was that it was not your usual Hollywood horror film in terms of quality.  The early buzz was right, Sinister lived up to its name and was unsettling and very scary.  This had one of the best scares I've seen in a long time - I won't be saying what as I wouldn't want to spoil it.  The writer did a Q&A and was brilliant to listen to and also very gracious to meet.  he loved that people loved it and just wanted to chat about movies with everyone.  He was a cool dude.

I skipped the last film, Dead Sushi, as the premise just didn't appeal to me.  The response from it seemed to be good and that it was very funny but very mental.  Instead we headed to The Phoenix Artists Club for a few drinks to wind down. There were a few people from the films in there such as the director of Cockneys vs Zombies but it was relatively quiet and a good way to end the night.  No taxi back to the hotel tonight, saved our money and went for the walking option. 

Today was a good day.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Fright Fest Day 3

So after another lengthy 4 and a half hours sleep, it was time to get up and start day 3.  But for me this day was going to be the most special day of the fest, or so I thought.

Picking my specially made Day of the Dead t-shirt (it has the newspaper from the beginning printed in full on it), packing my Day of the Dead Blu-Ray, I was ready to meet the master of special make up effects.  Greg Nicotero was going to be presented with a lifetime achievement award for his services to horror.  This is a man that, after being mentored by the legend that is Tom Savini, changed the landscape of make up effects.   Even if you are not a horror fan you will have undoubtedly seen the work of his effects house KNB as he has had his touch in films from the likes of Reservoir Dogs through to the Chronicles of Narnia.

Anyway, don't want to get ahead of myself just yet.  My day started in the queue for the discovery screen again as I wanted to grab tickets for Nightmare Factory, a documentary about Greg's work.  I also met someone I hadn't seen for the best part of 15 years who was at the festival supporting one of his friends that had made the day's opening film, Eurocrime.  This was a documentary about a genre I knew very little about but after having seen it it's a genre I want to know more of.  The films looked insane!!

A stretch of the legs and it was back in to see the hotly anticipated (I jest) sequel to Outpost, cleverly titled, Outpost 2 - Black Sun.  In the discovery screen was Kill Zombie! which went down a storm.  I wish I'd gone into that one as Outpost 2 was many things but good was not one of them.

Hunger pangs started kicking in so it was time to head to the noodle bar for some sweet and sour!!  Yum yum. As we walked out we saw a crowd had gathered around the entrance.  This was because Pinhead, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, a Sith Lord and some stormtroopers had unexpectedly decided to turn up.  Just another day in the life of Frightfest.  Anyway the hunger wasn't going away standing there watching them have their photo taken with joyous passers by.  And just as wel left the cover of cinema entrance the heavens opened.  Stealthily we made our way under the cover of the shop canopies.

Food bought we went back in.  Whilst waiting to go into the screen for Nightmare Factory I bumped into the Pierce brothers who directed one of my favourites from last yer, Deadheads.  They were back with a new short about one of the zombies from that feature.  And this time they'd brought their dad.  But their dad isn't like most dads, this day worked on the special effects for the original Evil Dead.  All three of them are so easy to talk with and accommodating as they are no different from us in terms of being complete horror fan boys.

They saw my noodles and after a good chat decided that was the perfect form of nourishment for them.  After the Pierce brothers headed off, this was slowly becoming a slightly surreal day as my wife decided to ask Michael Myers kill her so I could take a photo of it.  And he really put the effort in as he wrestled her to the ground.

In anticipation of the Greg Nicotero interview I went to watch the documentary about his effects company, Nightmare Factory.  Whilst the style of the film was a bit run of the mill and perhaps too slow, the content was perfect for me.  Lots of behind the scenes stuff from the films he worked on, interviews telling what influenced them and how they got into doing what they do. 

Then came the moment. The man himself. Greg Nicotero being presented his award and being interviewed by Damon Wise, from the likes of The Guardian and Empire Magazine.  It was funny and insightful and the audience asked some great questions.  And in a nice touch, fellow fanboy Simon Pegg did the actual presentation of the award.  And then, all too soon, it was over.  I could have listened to him talk for hours.  The man is a legend.

Like a complete geeky kid, I grabbed my Day of the Dead Blu-Ray and went out after he left the auditorium to try and get it signed.  Had to wait whilst him and Simon worked the press pit, meanwhile the next film Under The Bed was already playing.  After a 30 minute wait, they were done and the small group that was gathered started to perk up.  Now we get to meet a hero of ours.  And like that, the PR agent ushered Greg and Simon out of the press pit...... and straight out of the side door without a single hello to the fans that had patiently waited.  I was genuinely gutted.  A once in a lifetime opportunity had been taken away.  This sadly put a downer on the day for me.

Anyway, back into the screen for the remainder of Under The Bed from the director of the underwhelming The Aggression Scale.  Might have been better staying out, the film was rather pointless.

During the Glasgow Frightfest we had a 5 minute show of footage from a new film by Italian director Frederico Zampaglioni.  It was fantastic, making Tulpa a very anticipated film.  Sadly it did not live up to expectations.  Whilst it was entertaining enough, in trying to capture the schlocky elements of the 70's giallo films it went a bit too far and just became cheesy.  Oh well.  Hopefully Maniac can pick today back up on its feet.

And that it did!!  Elijah Wood in an incredibly brave role in a brilliantly brutal film.  Thank you for ending the day on a good night.

All in all, for me, day three was a let down.  I still enjoyed it but it was full of disappointments from not getting to meet Greg, Tulpa not living up to expectations and Outpost 2 just really annoying me with how poor it was.

And to cap it off, being a Saturday night, finding a cab wasn't quite as easy as previous nights.  But eventually we found one and it was back to the hotel for sleep and waking refreshed and ready for day 4.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Fright Fest Day 2

After arriving back at our hotel on day 1 at 1.30 am we were back up at 7am all pumped and ready for day 2 to smack us over the head with blood, chills, scares and laughs.  Without wanted to add spoilers to this blog I can safely assure you, dear reader, we got all three.

Arriving at the Empire Leicester Square we joined the queue to get tickets for the Discovery Screen (we went to see Guinea Pigs - review on the site), stuffed a exceptionally unsatisfying McDonalds into our hungry mouths and waited. 

Tickets purchased we settled in for our second day and it started off well, Guinea Pigs was a decent film, nothing to get too excited about but showed off some potential future talent in the genre.  Next up was the Dario Argento interview.  A very articulate man, even with his somewhat broken English, and a very humble man (even if he did state there was no point in remaking Susperia as it couldn't be done any better - which, in fairness, is true).  He discussed his dislike of remakes, his new film Dracula 3D and talked back over his best work.  This is a true icon of horror, a man who has been imitated, ripped off, referenced but remains unreplaceable.

After he finished and went off to sign Alan Jones' new book (and only his new book - bit of pimping yourself there Alan?) we found ourselves with an unusually long break.  You could sense the rabble was unsure of what to do with themselves.  So we did what any sensible person would and headed off to Ed's Diner for milkshakes and cheesy chips!!

We bumped into the Seasoning House group in the foyer and had a chat, exceptionally nice group of people who are so genuinely pleased that we liked their film that they were happy to just stick and have a chat.  One of the things Frightfest is great for is it doesn't let the talent act like divas and be dismissive of the fans.  And the talent always seem to like it that way.

Our seats started missing us so it was back to the screen and up came Hiddent In The Woods.  The less I say about it, the better.  Awful film.  So straight onto my most anticipated of the day, V/H/S.  An anthology movie made up of 6 found footage shorts.  My anticipation was well rewarded with film that gave us ghosts, slashers, the occult and aliens amongst its numbers. 

Just before the UK premier of Rec 3 - Genesis, we were treated to a few minutes of upcoming vampire flick Byzantium.  Looks like it could be interesting but I wasn't blown away.  Rec 3 was a surprise as it was a big deviation from the style of the first two.  However it was a highly entertaining romcomzom! 

After a short break, Mr Ross Noble was back up on the stage introducing his film, Stitches which was receiving its world premiere.  Once again he had the audience in, well, stitches, before the film kicked off with his incredible ability to be ridiculously funny about anything and everything. But could the funnyman act?  Quite simply yes, yes he can.  Stitches was incredibly violent, very funny and a great way to end a superb second day. 

Hello cab, hello hotel. Getting tired now.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Fright Fest Review - Guinea Pigs ★ ★ ★

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Anuerin Barnard,Alex Reid, Steve Evets, Jack Doolan
Written by Ian Clark
Certification UK 15 TBC
Runtime 84 minutes
Directed by Ian Clark

Guinea Pigs is the story of a group of no-bodies in need of money, selling their bodies to a pharmaceutical company for the advancement of medical science. They will receive £2,000 for two weeks of allowing themselves to be injected with the new drug Pro-9 and studied for potential side effects and if the drug is working.

However the new drug has some unforeseen side effects and slowly one by one they start succumbing to them.  The only question they really want answered is were they part of the control group and if so, does it increase their chances of survival?

Ian Clark has created a decent little horror film on a low budget.  Cleverly using the location to enable horror staples such as seclusion, limited cast and a sense of claustrophobia.  His style of having it seem very natural as though we are merely spying on this group works really well.  It also shows you can get an almost documentary feel to a film without having the need for it to be "found footage".  After some initial slightly dodgy bits of acting as we are introduced to the characters, the cast handle this realism style admirably and pull off the fact it's meant to feel real and not acted. However, whilst this was a great way of bringing us into the film, it doesn't last and a the film progresses, this documentary feel slowly dissipates and we're back into the normal horror genre zone.

The film moves along at a decent pace and the characters are given a sense of individuality without having to delve too deeply into their histories and why they are there; it doesn't matter why they came.  There's some good set piece scares in here and whilst it won't change film there wasn't much to really criticise this film about.

Of course there's things that could be better otherwise it would be a five star review, however it didn't really do anything wrong, just didn't do the good stuff brilliantly.  Sadly this film won't be seen by many people and it does have a slightly too grainy look to play well in the major multiplexes, but it will find its audience. 

If you get a chance and you are a fan of horror then you should try and get hold of a copy.  Whilst I doubt you'll be blown away, you will find something here that suggests Ian Clark is someone to look out for.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Fright Fest Day 1

The build up to today started way back at the end of June in the Fright Fest sleepy queue. All night anticipation to pick up the coveted weekend pass allowing you access to every main screen nightmare, every discovery screen, well, discovery and all the Q&As along. 

With the line up of films having just been released you find yourself already trying to plan your weekend of films.  What can you miss, what is unmissable! Where can you get out of food, where can you have a lie in or where can you get to the pub early!  I ended up putting all the films on a spreadsheet, showing me where and how long all the breaks were and what films clashed.  An yet turning up on the day I still haven't decided on everything.

You end up catching buzz about certain films you initially had no intention of watching and terrible word of mouth about others you were really excited about.  All your planning destroyed!! Ah well.

On the day you carefully think about what t-shirts to where (well at least I do) - are they horror enough?! You pack, you travel, you check in to your hotel. Then for some of us it's off to the pub for a few pre fest drinks.  Here you meet up with friends from previous festivals and say hello to people you've never met.  Some of which you only know by their names on Twitter. 

Then at around 6pm the time comes.  You make your way over to the Empire cinema in the heart of Leicester Square, the anticipation building inside you for the start of your 5 day journey into visual Hell (well Heaven really but it's often a bit too disturbing to actually use that word for it). 

The crowds have gathered, the atmosphere is electric and everyone is shuffling their way into the cinema.  There are poor members of the public just there to see the general release films getting caught up with the festival crowd who have bewildered looks on their face.  Yes the horror geeks have descended (and believe me if you thought you knew a lot about horror before - think again).

You get your drink, popcorn or whatever your snack of choice may be, walk through the doors to the screen, find your place that you will call home for the next 5 days.  You and your seat will become very well acquainted. The lights go down and the Fright Fest team step up to the stage.... hang on, this isn't the team.... oh it's only Ross Noble!!

This was a very pleasant surprise as Ross begins going along some very bizarre tangents about beheading orphans (you really had to be there to understand that it actually was very funny).  After Ross reeled himself back in, reminding himself that this wasn't actually one of his stand up shows (although I'd have happily watched him do another hour!) but he was there just to kick things off, he introduced the Fright Fest team.  The four guys that dedicate so much time and effort to ensuring we get an incredible festival.

They bring on the cast and crew of our opening film The Seasoning House.  The crowd whoops and cheers as each person is brought onto the stage.  And then it's film time.  The hush of the audience descends and we are reminded once more to turn off our bloody phones (via an excellent little piece of film with a phone offender being decapitated).

Check out the review of the film on this site. 

Once the end credits roll, the crowd cheers, the film was an undoubted success.  The cast and crew are brought back on stage to answer a few questions, then the screen empties as people head for smoke breaks, toilet breaks and beer toppage. Soon enough we're doing it all again for the next Film, Cockney's vs Zombies.  A surprisingly fun look at what would happen were the zombie holocaust to begin in the East End of London. There was laughs and gore aplenty (full review will be up soon).

As with The Seasoning House, the cast and crew came back to the stage for a few questions, including the legendary Alan Ford (who you saw when he was signing autographs was more or less playing himself - such a great character).  Then ensured the same routine, fag, beer, toilet, stretch the legs.  And back in for the final film of the night.  Grabbers was a sci-fi, horror comedy.  A fun end to the night and this ended up a superb opening night trio of films.  This has now set the bar so I can only hope the rest of the days live up to what went before. 

So for my little tale of the opening night it is over and out and I will see you all on the flip side, when no doubt I will be increasingly tired, unshaven and most definitely fatter.  But I love it all!!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

REVIEW - The Seasoning House ★ ★ ★ ★

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Kevin Howarth
Written by Paul Hyett & Conal Palmer
Certification UK 18 
Runtime 89 minutes
Directed by Paul Hyett

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 (Rosie Day in a breath taking debut), a girl ripped from her home during the war in the Balklans.

In war torn zones, the military are kidnapping girls and selling them into the sex trade where they are sold to militia and civilians alike.  We are introduced to deaf and mute Angel is one of these girls, a girl 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 birth mark on her face makes her tainted goods so the owner, Viktor (Howarth), uses her to dope the other girls with heroin, making them more amenable to their visitors, then clean them up afterwards.  When she is away from the prying eyes of her captors she spends her time 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 and drugged women, as well as some who pay extra to be rough with them.  Some of the girls do not survive 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 as 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 at 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.