The Seeding (2023)

OCTOBER 8, 2023


Sometimes I have the wrong idea of what a movie is about, but The Seeding was the first time I also had the wrong idea of where it took place. I THOUGHT it was a movie about a couple who run afoul of feral children in the Australian outback, but at least I was somewhat close on the plot (there are feral children, but the plot isn’t a Wolf Creek meets Them kind of thing). Turns out the movie was shot in Utah, and presumably just takes place there too since the main character is from Los Angeles, but I spent the entire thing thinking he was in Wake in Fright territory as opposed to somewhere that’s only like a 90 minute flight away. I think it’s safe to assume that I would do pretty miserably if I was ever on Carmen Sandiego.

Anyway, the movie is about a guy with the very silly name of Wyndham Stone, who is NOT the evil CEO in an ‘80s action movie but a photographer who is out in the desert to get a shot of a perfect eclipse (unlike the versions I always see, where it’s just covering like 1/4 at most of the sun). On his way back to his car he sees a kid who says he can’t find his parents, and tries to help him despite the kid leading him the opposite way of his car (which is on the road that could take them to someone who’d be able to help better than a rando guy who doesn’t even live there – Wyndham’s a bit of a dummy). After a while he gets sick of the kid seemingly leading him further and further away, so he tries to go back to his car, but gets lost as it’s now too dark to see his way. He then descends a very long rope ladder down into a canyon that has a house, and thinks nothing of how peculiar that is (this seemed less weird to me when I thought it was the Outback. Now that I know it’s just Utah, I think the guy is even dumber than I already did).

Living in the house is Alina, a quiet woman who seemingly opted for a life of isolation, but happily offers him food and a place to stay. The next morning Wyndham heads outside to presumably climb back up and find his car now that the sun is on his side again, but the ladder is gone. He tries to climb out, but falls and hurts his leg, and after Alina patches him up a bit, he sees some teens above who offer to help. Naturally, him being an idiot and a jerk, he not only secures himself to a rope they drop (without asking them to just put the ladder down) but starts screaming at them when they pull a little too hard and shake him up a bit. At this point our man finally catches up to the audience and realize he’s been trapped down there on purpose, and it only takes a moment of thinking about the title to know what that purpose might be.

Perhaps needless to say, this is a “slow burn” horror; it’s coming from Magnet but it’s very much like an A24 type of movie, so your mileage will of course vary depending on how patient you are with such fare. There isn’t much in the way of violence (two would-be helpers are dispatched off-screen) and he remains in the canyon for the rest of the movie. I thought for sure there’d be a sequence of him escaping and being chased down/returned, but nope – he tries to climb the rocks out but doesn’t make it that far, and the only other time his feet leave the ground is when he’s being tricked by the kids. And since he’s such a jerk it’s hard to really care if he gets out anyway, so you’re better off tracking Alina and wondering what her deal is. Scattered clues more or less tell us she’s been down there her entire life, without any entertainment or connection to the outside world, which is scarier than anything in the movie. At one point Wyndham shows her his camera so she can see the photos of the eclipse, and accidentally swipes to an older video that has a snippet of a hiphop song, and it’s obvious that she’s never actually heard music before, asking him to replay the brief clip over and over.

Things finally get a little more exciting in the third act, as we finally get our answer re: “Is Alina good or bad?” and events spiral out from there. The movie takes place over a surprising amount of time (passage is depicted by title screens saying what Moon is in the sky, and “Harvest Moon” comes up twice), allowing Wyndham’s mental state to deteriorate to the point of seeming feral himself, and that’s an interesting approach for what is at its core a survival horror movie, but I couldn’t help but feel a little restless at times, wishing the movie would kick into higher gear sooner (and then getting higher than it ever did). You know how in Talk To Me (spoiler) the last scene shows us how the protagonist eventually became one of the anonymous ghosts that people like her were conjuring up for their own amusement? It would have been interesting to go all the way and have Wyndham fully transform into one of the scary people kidnapping random tourists in the middle of the Outback Utah desert, but the movie doesn’t take things that far. The ending is pretty good as is, but it’s also like “Well, yeah, that’s exactly where I thought this would go.”

So I dunno. It’s well made and the actors are solid, and I liked how it flirted with folk horror a bit, but there’s not enough meat on the bones for a 90 minute movie – even those aforementioned “moon cards” seem to just be padding the runtime, playing out over a shot of some vegetables for a far longer time than it takes to read them. And the protagonist’s idiocy and prickly behavior keeps him from being very compelling (I don’t have to love the main character, but I should be invested in what they’re doing either way), so by the time Alina’s character came into focus I started wishing the movie was told from her perspective all along (doesn’t hurt that she gets the best line, though I can’t say it without spoiling things. It involves the C word though!). If you absolutely hate men you’ll probably be a little warmer on it, since it basically boils down to how useless we are, but there are ways to do that while remaining more engaging throughout instead of in spurts.

What say you?


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