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[film review]:The Seeding (2023)

Three teenage boys standing on the edge of a desert cliff looking down

From acclaimed music video director Barnaby Clay, The Seeding is a creepingly  atmospheric desert-set folk horror seeped in nihilistic dread, with its heritage wedged firmly between Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). 

The film stars Scott Haze as Wyndham Stone, a man who’s initial plan to photograph a solar eclipse in the Utah desert is soon scuppered by a seemingly lost child, who he decides to follow into the desolate wilderness, walking further away from phone service and civilization. He soon discovers a canyon where the meek Alina resides in an off-the-grid ramshackled cabin, and after his ladder disappears, Wyndham finds himself stranded whilst constantly being attacked and preyed upon by a pack of sadistic boys. 

The desert landscape is stark and desolate, and whilst the majority of The Seeding occurs in bright sunlight, this environment only adds to the heightened danger and tension that is interwoven throughout the hour and forty minute running time. Audiences are immediately immersed in a world where only the most cunning and willing to adapt survive, perfectly portrayed by the character of Alina. Alina is a woman who, whilst we are not privy to her origin, we understand has been trapped in that ravine for quite some time, and has come to accept the presence of the group of feral boys. She represents Wendy Darling in a twisted re-imagining of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, thrust into an unintended motherhood role.  Kate Lyn Sheil plays Alina with an off-kilter stoicism, her stillness feels uncanny, opting to not engage with Stone in conversation and to continue with her everyday activities, despite his intrusion into her home. 

Whilst aesthetically, The Seeding is breathtaking and with scenes like the opening shot of a toddler chewing on a human finger like its a teething toy conjures a feeling like viewers are witnessing the birth of the Sawyer Family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), thematically the film feels confusing and lackluster. With depictions of reproduction, birth and the developmental stages of children left to their own devices, it becomes difficult to discern what it is exactly the film is attempting to say. Through a speech by Alina, we learn that this is a society in which the adult male is seen as nothing but a seed, a way to carry on the human race, and serve no other purpose. Men are ephemeral and disposable, reinforced by the closing shot of the film. Yet with the inclusion of murderous children, devoid of any sort of morals, The Seeding feels like a hollow commentary on what would happen to a society deficient in father-figures. 

The Seeding boasts terrifying performances from the older members of the boys, especially Alex Montaldo and Michael Monsour who have definitely based their characters on the cannibalistic Sawyer family children Nubbins and Chop Top from Tobe Hooper’s classic. Despite these strengths, it would have been ideal to see The Seeding really heavily lean into the grim reality of children gone wild in the desolate and arid landscape of the desert in order to leave an audience in a state of shock long after the credits roll. 

3 Screams out of 5

Available on UK Digital Download from 12th February

Written by Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana


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