Paul Hyett is the director of the chilling new British thriller 'The
Seasoning House' which hits cinemas this week here in the UK. After 20 years in the film
business working in special effects on productions such as 'The Descent'
this marks his debut as director.
Paul, The Seasoning House is
your new film. Please tell us about it?
Basically itís about a young deaf-mute girl called Angel who is snatched
from her village during a campaign of violence by soldiers. She then gets
institutionalized in this seasoning house and she survives by shutting
down her feelings; she has to look after these girls and keep them in a
drug induced stupor and the way she copes is by shutting off. There are
clients who come and pay to abuse these girls but one day this girl Vanya
arrives who can use sign language. It kind of awakens Angelís feelings
again and she strikes back against her captors and the film becomes this
The film does switch
seamlessly between being a claustrophobic, chilling thriller into a more
action-driven chase film. Was it difficult to balance these two styles
within the same film?
It was always a conscious decision to have that gear change. The first
half of the film is almost like a dreamlike fairy tale, making use of lots
of slow motion and subdued, muted sound to reflect the girls stupour, very
nihilistic, and then Angel stabs Ivan and it suddenly takes a different
turn dragging her back to reality and from there we went to hand held
cameras and pulled the audience along with her
Paul: "These things are still going on
all over the world so it was important to handle it carefully".
This is a difficult and tough
subject matter. What was it that drew you to it and given its basis in
fact were you conscious of handling it carefully?
Yeah, these things really happened so itís a fine balance. We were always
sensitive and wanted to ensure we didnít make an exploitative film with
lots of female nudity and one dimensional characters while still making an
entertaining thriller. Sometimes basing this type of film in a real life
situation makes it all the more intense. These things are still going on
all over the world so it was important to handle it carefully.
All the performances are
incredibly strong and powerful but Rosie Day really stands out. Was it
difficult to find someone who had that ability to switch from innocence to
violence within them?
Yeah, we saw around 120 girls in the end before Rosie came in. We needed
to find someone who didnít look too much like a victim or too strong. The
character arc of Angel shows her developing from someone who is
emotionally numb to someone who then starts to feel again and becomes a
survivor. Rosie has that ability to just turn it off, itís like her eyes
are just dead.
And sheís also playing
opposite Sean Pertwee as well who is just a maniacal presence in the
(laughs) Yeah, she ended up being thrown around in harnesses and doing her
own stunts as well. It was a real physical performance as well as being
emotionally draining. We were all stunned how brilliant and professional
When the violence comes it is
really brutal and visceral. Were there times when you had to be careful
how much to show and how graphic to be?
Firstly I didnít want to make something unwatchable. You show as much as
you need to show without lingering, like in the rape scenes. In the cut
throat scene at the start, we wanted to make it really horrible so it
stood out, and to make every bit of violence as realistic as possible.
Sometimes you get horror films where everything is all the same and thereís
a huge body count with people you donít care about. Some people in early
screenings came out really shaken up so the film did its job really.
Paul: "There isnít actually much violence in The Seasoning House but what is there is strong and realistic but not in a super-graphic way".
Your background is in special
effects so this was always going to look realistic. Was it also important
to make sure the audience believe that Angel was capable of doing the
things she does?
We didnít want Angel to be like super girl. We wanted the audience to
believe that at any point she might get hurt or crushed.
Given the plethora of recent
ďtorture pornĒ films do you think the boundaries of what you can show on
screen and what people now expect to see are being constantly
There are people who want to watch films with extreme gore but we didnít
want to make one like that. There isnít actually much violence in The
Seasoning House but what is there is strong and realistic but not in a
super-graphic way. I wanted it to be as emotionally striking as possible
as opposed to splashy, long lingering scenes. There are some films with
minute after minute of scenes of suffering but that was not how I wanted
What are your thoughts as a
first time director coming into the horror genre, given the number of
remakes and franchises in the market.
To be honest with you I donít mind the remakes or re-imaginings. You have
the choice whether to watch them or not. I guess it can be more difficult
to get independent films made but I think the genre on the whole is in a
good state. The more horror films that make money the better this is as it
filters down to the independents. Time will tell but I think that if thereís
good writing and a good concept then you can get it made and I think
audiences want better films now as opposed to the ďso bad its goodĒ type
Is directing the future for
Yeah, after 20 years in the business itíll be directing full time for me
Which directors have
influenced you throughout your career?
Iíve worked on over 70 films in my time so you learn something from every
one. Neil Marshall was great, he always knows what heís doing and what he
wants. Thing is, as a director you need to use your crew and their skills
as theyíre experts in their fields. Every film Iíve learnt good things and
What is your favourite horror
film of all time?
It would be John Carpenterís The Thing. Itís not just the effects but the
characters, the music, the concept, everything. Someone asked me once if
there was one film where I wouldnít change anything and after I thought
about it would definitely be The Thing.
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."
You can check out our review of 'The Seasoning House' here.