The Seasoning House (2012)
"Whatever life you knew is gone. There is nothing outside these walls to believe in any more."
It's 1996 in the Balkans, and the militia are capturing young women and forcing them into prostitution. They are repeatedly drugged, bound up and raped - and for a bit more money, the visiting soldiers can be as rough as they like with the women. When a deaf girl with a birthmark on her face is brought to the brothel, the man in charge sees her as damaged goods. He decides to employ her to prepare the women for their clients, as well as 'looking after him'. But then one day, the same soldiers who dragged her away after shooting her mother, turn up at the brothel.
I have to admit, I had conflicting thoughts on this film and I've struggled with this review. Technically, it has impressive production values - the cinematography, lighting, soundscape, and acting performances are all excellent throughout. I was completely invested in the characters, and felt their pain and their sense of hopelessness. I became incredibly angry, as well as deeply sad. And when events take a turn in the second half, I was sitting upright, gripping the edge of my seat. It has emotion, atmosphere, tension and some surprising moments of gore. One thing this movie certainly can't be accused of, is being boring.
On the other hand, I feel a thriller or horror film ought to thrill me, scare me or entertain me. It should feel like an exciting roller coaster ride. But watching defenseless people being continually beaten and raped, it was far from a pleasant experience. Yes there's a turning point in the story, some kind of resolution, and a character experiencing an emotional journey. But it's so incredibly bleak and brutal along the way, it's hard to see it as good entertainment.
The Seasoning House is technically impressive, it looks amazing, and it made me experience some very strong emotions. It reminded me a lot of The Woman, Last House On The Left and I Spit On Your Grave. But if I found it hard to watch and wouldn't want to experience it again, does that mean it was entertaining? And if I don't find it entertaining, could I still say it's a good film? That's my dilemma.