Director: Barnaby Clay
Starring: Scott Haze, Kate Lyn Sheil
Barnaby Clay has carved out a solid career directing music videos for the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gnarls Barkley and Take That, so to hear that his feature directorial debut would be a existential horror/thriller movie was a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. In The Seeding, a hiker (Haze) finds himself lost in the desert whilst trying to photograph an upcoming solar eclipse. Stumbling across a lone cabin in a deep clearing that is home to a mysterious woman (Sheil), the unnamed man unwittingly descends into a nightmare-scape.
The Seeding opens with a toddler gnawing on a bloodied finger in the desert, and, well, it doesn’t really let up from there. This isn’t a white-knuckle, thundering gorefest, though. Instead, it’s a slow paced, atmospheric portrayal of isolation, desperation, and masculinity viewed through a nihilistic lens - but it’s atmospheric without ever being throttling. Sure, there’s an uneasy air hanging over the entirety of the film, given the nameless characters, the symbolism of the moon and night, the quiet mannerisms of the woman - named in the credits as Alina - and more, but the pacing may prove too pedestrian for some. There were times during the admittedly snappy runtime where I felt that the momentum cooled, but there was more than enough throughout The Seeding to counteract these moments.
Haze and Sheil are both very good in their respectives roles. Sheil is quieter, she is more deliberate with her actions and (few) words whereas Haze finds his character - Wyndham, also named in the credits - spiralling further into craziness - and, eventually acceptance - as the situation around him unravels towards its conclusion. The locality is used extremely effectively as well, the setting and how it is captured really underlines the isolation and peril that Wyndham finds himself in, especially as the feral kids that roam the desert begin their cruel reign of terror that involved plenty of bloody sequences leading to the movie's shocking conclusion. Whilst watching The Seeding, the feeling is akin to a merciless fever dream (fever nightmare?) and it does feel as if the destination is unavoidable, but it is still a strong finish.
For a debut feature, The Seeding is certainly a compelling calling card. At times brave and bold, the film did straddle the line of being too stilted for its own good at certain points. Whilst the mystery unravelled fairly quickly, the imagery will stay with you for a while after watching.
June 12th 2023