The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE SEEDING | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE SEEDING

The Seeding review
man becomes trapped in a desert canyon with a mysterious woman while being held captive by a group of feral children.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Barnaby Clay

Starring: Scott Haze, Kate Lyn Sheil, Alex Montaldo, Charlie Avink, Thatcher Jacobs, Michael Monsour

The Seeding poster

Writer/director Barnaby Clay's feature debut The Seeding follows movies as disparate as the Japanese arthouse classic Woman in the Dunes, the Stephen King adaptation Misery and the recent AI thriller Blank in trapping its protagonist with a female figure whose threat comes not from outright malevolence but from a form of adulation and a compulsion to serve. Such films play on our fears of both confinement and of being smothered with a love we can't requite.

Clay takes his setup almost directly from Woman in the Dunes, transferring the central idea of Hiroshi Teshigahara's film to the desert of the American SouthWest. It's here that we find Wyndham (Scott Haze), a photographer who has driven out to a remote area to best capture a total eclipse. Like the clever 2013 sci-fi thriller Coherence, here a celestial event seems to cause an imbalance of reality. Immediately after the eclipse, Wyndham comes across a distraught young boy who claims he's separated from his parents. Wyndham tries to help the kid, who runs off, leading to Wyndham losing his bearings.

The Seeding review

With no cellphone coverage, Wyndham stumbles around in a daze until he comes across a cabin at the bottom of a wide cavern. Climbing down a rope ladder, Wyndham discovers a young woman, Alina (Kaye Lyn Sheil), living alone, seemingly unperturbed by her surrounds, as though she were living in suburbia. With no phone, Alina proves useless to Wyndham but he agrees to stay the night and accepts her food. Early the next morning he sneaks out, only to find the rope ladder has vanished, leaving him stuck with Alina.

So far, so Woman in the Dunes, but Clay takes his film from the arthouse to the grindhouse by replacing the Japanese villagers with a tribe of feral kids straight out of a Hills Have Eyes knockoff. The kids taunt Wyndham, at first telling him they'll pull him out of the canyon with a rope, only to leave him hanging. At night they sneak down and physically attack him. Occasionally they send down supplies, making Wyndham and Alina reliant on their generosity. Clay likely named his protagonist after author John Wyndham, whose novel 'The Midwich Cuckoos' (filmed as Village of the Damned) similarly sees adults held hostage by malevolent children.

As his predicament becomes clear, Wyndham grows angry with Alina, who is quite content with her situation. Drunk on a bottle of whisky sent down by the kids, Wyndham gives into her sexual desires, but hates himself in the morning.

The Seeding review

Clay uses this derivative setup to initiate a bleak examination of the modern male's fear of commitment and what it means to be free in the 21st century. As recently as a century ago, Wyndham's predicament would have been exactly what every man strives for. He has a mate, food and shelter. But it's not enough. In the modern world such things are taken for granted, the bread and butter of an existence in which we spend our lives wanting to taste as many fillings as we can. When Alina asks Wyndham what exactly he means by freedom, he pauses, before replying "Choice." When asked what he would choose, the best he can come up with is "a cheeseburger."

As Wyndham gradually resigns himself to his fate, so too does a sort of Stockholm Syndrome descend on the viewer. We begin to think about how we might deal with his situation, how food, shelter and love might be enough after all. There's a certainty to Wyndham's new life, but perhaps it's the very uncertainty of freedom that makes it so appealing. Like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, we may not like what we find on the other side of the canyon, but the need to satisfy our curiosity is what makes us human.

The Seeding review

Sheil is slowly carving out her own niche in playing enigmatic and ethereal women in American indie cinema. She's quietly fantastic as the taciturn Alina, giving little away at first but exposing her humanity little by little. A scene in which she reacts to hearing music for the first time via a video clip on Wyndham's camera is a lovely piece of acting, as though Alina has suddenly been born again into a new world of possibilities.

Clay tempers his film's small moments of humanity with acts of shocking cruelty and arrestingly grim images. His film opens with the disturbing sight of an infant wandering alone in the desert, nibbling on a piece of meat that could either be a human finger or a severed penis. This opening keeps us on edge as to how things might end up, but the film's bleak climax takes us by surprise nonetheless.

The Seeding
 is on UK/ROI VOD from February 12th.

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