The Seeding, 2024.
Written and Directed by Barnaby Clay.
Starring Scott Haze, Kate Lyn Sheil, Alex Montaldo, Charlie Avink, Thatcher Jacobs, Harrison Middleton, Michael Monsour, SoKo, and Aarman Touré.
When a hiker gets lost in the desert, a gang of feral children propelled by haunting legacies traps him in a sadistic battle for survival with a frightening endgame.
Opening with an unsettling shot of a child stumbling through a desert and chewing on a dismembered finger, it’s a shame that writer/director Barnaby Clay’s knack for expressing atmospheric chills with The Seeding ends up going to waste on a narrative that not only drags but rather easily telegraphs early on where it’s going. None of this is helped by the film’s title, essentially giving it all away, at least once the character dynamics are properly set up.
Wandering around that same desert, searching for the best view to photograph an eclipse, Wyndham Stone (Scott Haze) comes across a lost child (thankfully, one that’s not scarfing down human remains) whom he naturally worries about, offers some canteen water, and tries to bring back to civilization. The boy isn’t interested and runs off. Eventually, Wyndham comes across a ladder leading down into an enclosure with a small wooden home built. Lost and looking for a place to stay for the night, he introduces himself to the woman living inside there, Alina (Kate Lyn Sheil), a welcoming, surprisingly calm individual comfortable offering hospitality and food (the less said about the gross-looking soup concoction, the better.)
The next morning, the ladder leading up back into the desert is gone. Alina is unphased by this, casually explaining to Wyndham that people remove and return the ladder and that there is not much either of them can do about this. Soon after, children of varying ages emerge (some of them young adults), playing up stereotypical hillbilly clichés and antagonizing Wyndham. At one point, they pretend to assist him up the rocky wall with a rope, only to stop and start urinating on him from above in graphic detail.
It becomes apparent that the only thing for Wyndham to do is accept this uncertain, unfortunate situation and bond with Alina, a connection that only has one place to go unless you are naïve enough to believe The Seeding is a horror film only about planting and farming using what little land these characters have. However, it’s not only that this movie only has one place to go, but that the character motors behind it all also only have one possible explanation. Barring some admittedly disturbing images (and I don’t just mean the sight of a hillbilly urinating on someone) and a thick atmosphere, The Seeding takes its entire running time to blossom into something mildly eventful.
One never wants to see a film like The Seeding fall too much into endless exposition, but there perhaps could have been more characterization or backstory to give a reason to care about these two people and the inevitable, twisted conclusion. At the very least, the depiction of loneliness with Wyndham eventually showing his lust for Alina comes across with a natural and believable slow burn (credit to Scott Haze and Kate Lyn Sheil, giving solid, restrained performances searching for depth and something of meeting here even if they come up short.) Barnaby Clay just doesn’t do anything remotely compelling or thrilling with this dynamic beyond the lame and predictable.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com