Thursday, January 25, 2024

Mix and Match

The Seeding (2023) - Clay

Barnaby Clay's The Seeding mixes and matches The Hills Have Eyes with Woman in the Dunes. But it lacks the grit, fast pacing plot of the Hills and the aesthetic beauty and metaphorical depth in storytelling of the Japanese New Wave classic.

Don't get me wrong, a movie doesn't have to be anything other than what it promises - with the implication of the title and the macabre poster, The Seeding is a horror through and through. Yes, with the first glimpse of the 'strays' (the young cannibals who prey on tourists), you know where exactly the movie is headed.

A photographer (Scott Haze) gets lost in a California desert after documenting a solar eclipse. He then gets lured in by a woman (Kate Lyn Sheil, Kate Plays Christine, She Dies Tomorrow) singing at night. She lives in a shack at what seems to be the bottom of a quarry drained of water, which is only accessible by a rope ladder. For the next one hour and forty minutes, things don't go well for the photographer. After getting stuck down in the quarry with the not-so-talkative woman who wouldn't divulge any useful information for him to escape or call for help, he tries to scale the wall with a pickaxe, only to end up injuring himself. And who are these feral marauding teenagers who at first seem to be helping him but ending up with toying with him and taunt him? The woman is vague about these 'strays' about their origins or their intentions. With an injured leg and without prospects of escaping, the photographer slowly begins to accept his fate and gives in to temptations, after seeing the woman taking sponge baths in front of him night after night. Now that she is pregnant and only food and supplies are from the strays above, by lowering down with a rope, he tries his hands at some farming and engage in pleasant conversations with the woman who doesn't seem to be aware the comfort of the modern world.

Clays sets the tone early on with moody score and a shot of feral child munching on a severed finger. And there are some pretty experimental blot art sequences throughout. But the film's predictable storyline and uninspired dialog will certainly invite a lot of scrutinizing: Why did he climb all the way down the ladder at night in the first place when he could've simply call her from above? Why didn't he forcefully get the story out of the woman in the first place? Why there are no search parties or park rangers to look for him for nine plus months? How can the woman and strays and their ancestors not be noticeable in the national park all these years for generations? Where does the woman get electricity to light the shack and cook meals?

The Seeding features some striking sceneries and sets an impending doom with great sound design but with stilted performances and plot holes, it stops short at delivering an intense psychological survival horror usually associated with 'trapped' narrative.

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