NOVEMBER 22, 2008
I’ve had a bootleg copy of Seed for over a year now, but even though I am a minor fan of Boll’s (more the guy himself than his movies, though to be fair he’s been more or less improving, and I say without a trace of irony that Postal is hilarious and mostly great), I’ve never bothered to watch it. Part of that is due to my distaste of bootlegs (when I make an exception it’s usually for a film that doesn’t seem to be getting any sort of real release in the States, such as [Rec]), but partly because Boll always provides an entertaining commentary, and since the bootleg was obviously sans the alternate track, I knew I’d have to rent/buy it and watch it again anyway, so I figured I might as well wait.
Unfortunatly (sic), his commentary is surprisingly subdued, and he actually bails on it like 15 minutes before the film ends. On Bloodrayne II he got a phone call from his mother about a sale on bicycles or lawnmowers or something, but here, even though he warns us that he might take phone calls, he just sort of narrates the movie and names the actors on screen. He occasionally lapses into old-school Boll style ranting (he calls Saw II “a real piece of shit”), but he’s otherwise kind of mellow (in the same breath he praises Saw I and III). His critics are addressed, of course, but mainly to provide context – he wrote this (and Postal) as a response to all of the shit he takes, as well as what he saw was a severe decline in the human race as a whole. This may be the first commentary to point out that “the theme of the movie is that the earth would be better without humans.”
However, this movie is exceptionally dark, so I am glad I watched this surprisingly strong DVD transfer rather than some 2nd or 3rd generation copy. I seriously thought I was watching a Blu-Ray at times, as the image is incredibly sharp, with color details as vivid as I’ve ever seen on a standard def DVD. If I had to guess, I would say that this is due to the fact that some scenes are filmed in near total darkness, giving the DVD whizzes more disc space to use for the brighter scenes (colorful images take up more space than solid colors). One example is the (overlong) section of the film where a few cops go to arrest Seed in his remote home. At times, I couldn’t even tell what was happening since the image (by design) was showing so little of what was actually happening. Boll even points this out on the commentary, but he doesn’t explain why he went so overboard. Ironically enough, it reminded me of a video game such as Condemned (which also concerned a serial killer who lived at a remote farmhouse) or Dead Space, where you have a flashlight beam illuminating part of the screen and leaving everything else in total black darkness.
I say that’s ironic because this is Boll’s first non-video game movie for the States. He had made several in the early part of the decade, but since House of the Dead onward, all of his films have had some origin in a video game. This is a big part of why he is so vilified by internet critics, because he’s the only filmmaker besides Paul WS Anderson (no fanboy hero himself) to work so heavily in the video game adaptation subgenre. It’s not that his films are any worse (some are actually better, I would argue) than any other game based film such as Doom or Super Mario Bros, but it’s just a lot easier to single him out because he’s made so many.
And that’s a shame, because it led to this film being torn apart as well (even moreso than Bloodrayne, which has escaped the IMDb Bottom 100, where Seed still sits), despite the fact that it’s not bad at all. It’s definitely his most accomplished from a technical sense; it’s well shot and the production value is above average (especially for a period piece). For example, check out this newspaper clipping:
If you notice, the entire article is about the case. A lot of movies (even big budget ones) just write a headline and then the text is gibberish, but someone took the time to write out an entire piece that will be seen only by people with pause buttons.
The acting is also above Boll-average. There are a lot of his regulars (Michael Paré, Will Sanderson, Ralf Moeller, etc), but they play roles that fit them; i.e. Paré as a cop. Moeller seems a bit out of place due to his accent, but I certainly believe him as a warden, much more than I can Matthew Lillard as a prince or Ray Liotta as an all powerful warlock (Dungeon Siege, possibly the alpha and omega of badly cast movies). And Sanderson – I didn’t even know it was him! He doesn’t really do much (he never speaks a word), but he’s definitely imposing, and it reminded me of Tyler Mane’s performance in Zombie's Halloween (one of that film’s strong points). There’s a great bit where a few guards bust into Seed’s cell in order to rape him (sure, why not) and instead they are all dispatched (including a super cool move where Seed kicks a guy’s head through his iron bars). He then just sits back down rather than escape or go on a rampage. Nice work.
Speaking of Sanderson, Boll claims that after shooting Seed he retired from the film business in order to raise his family and become a doctor. Which is a bummer, I liked his dedication to Boll (he’s made like 7 or 8 movies with him), and, as Seed proves, he can acquit himself nicely in whatever role Boll has him play He is also the one to tell me how to pronounce Uwe (“Oov-a”), so I am forever in his debt*.
The film also has a strong score, by frequent collaborator Jessica de Rooij. Just thought I’d mention that, and that she is apparently younger than me! I always think of composers as middle-aged (at least) for some reason.
So is this some sort of masterpiece? Well, no. It might be an “original” movie, but it sure seems like Boll watched Shocker and The Horror Show before he wrote it. It might be darker than either of those films (not in the technical sense, but in the more nihilistic, depressing sense – this may be Boll’s most German movie ever!), but the serial killer comes back after being electrocuted thing has obviously been done, and the aforementioned arrest sequence is very similar to the one in Shocker. Plus it’s very jarringly paced... much has been made about the film’s allegedly realistic premise (that if someone survives the electric chair they are pardoned), but Seed doesn’t go to the chair until around the hour mark, and it’s a 90 min movie. And the film’s centerpiece, a 5 minute continuous shot of a woman being beaten to death with a hammer, would probably be a lot more grueling if I had any idea who the hell she was.
Still, Boll set out to make a dark and depressing serial killer movie, and he succeeded. It may not be very good, but for once that is the fault of Boll the writer, not Boll the director/producer, and on that alone, it’s worth a look. Plus, I’ll take it over Heartstopper any day of the week.
One final note – I made Boll yawn. You know how if you hear/see someone yawn, you yawn right after (I bet you just yawned reading that!)? Well I yawned, and then 5 seconds later, Boll yawned on his track. I like that.
What say you?
*I went to the premiere of Bloodrayne (tickets were surprisingly easy to obtain!) and sat in front of Sanderson. Boll had him come up stage to join him for his typically self-deprecating and angry intro, and when he returned to his seat, he muttered “well that was embarrassing.” A similar scenario repeated when I saw Postal and sat in front of Boll’s lawyer. When Boll began to speak, the lawyer guy muttered “Oh please let him be good...” Hahahaha. You gotta love the guy.