Make-up effects designer Paul Hyett's directorial debut makes for bland viewing.
The feature debut of British make-up effects designer, Paul Hyett is a miserable affair. Against the 1996 backdrop of the Balkans conflict, local girls are kidnapped and sold to the eponymous brothel, their families murdered in front of them.
Apparently determined not to make "an exploitative or titillating film", Hyett goes on in his Director’s Statement to tell us that, "after extensive research, we tried to be as faithful to reality as possible, but we also wanted to make a thrilling, provocative film that in turn maybringattentiontotheterribleexperiences some women continue to suffer during times ofwar." It’s a good job he cleared that up for us, as there’s little evidence over the course of The Seasoning House’s 89 minutes to substantiate such honourable intent.
Bad taste aside, Hyett is quick to fall headlong into the first feature cliché of ensuring his visibility as director. Taking the alternate forms of either post-added slo-mo to affect a woozy, detached haze or juddery shaky-cam to bring action sequences to life, their repetition belies a singular lack of visual ideas. Too often resorting to meaningless canted angles and a floating POV that takes in empty corners, it often feels as though the camera itself is looking to escape from the film. The flat, digital photography proves an insurmountable problem, its TV sheen highlighting the distressed squalor of the production design by making it look exactly like a distressed set.
Unsurprisingly, Hyett plays his ace card during one particularly nasty killing, the make-up effects being one area where visibility of craftsmanship proves welcome. If the awkwardness of the writing makes for a sluggish 45-minute build-up before the preposterously plotted finale kicks in, actress Rosie Day’s performance as the (selectively, it seems) deaf-mute Angel holds our attention, no doubt aided by her lack of ropey dialogue to utter.
Despite being chosen last year to open FrightFest, the UK’s premier horror film festival, it serves only to offer further proof that the UK horror industry needs to up its game. Whatever Hyett’s stated intent, with its political backdrop mere window dressing, The Seasoning House leaves a sour aftertaste. Good intentions? The road to FrightFest is paved with them.
Ooh, this film comes with a Director’s Statement. Must be good, then?
Oh. Okay. But what about all that stuff you said?
If only the dialogue and camera work were as good as the make-up effects.