From the opening shot of Barnaby Clay‘s The Seeding there’s a sense that nothing will be as it initially appears. There’s an immediate knowing that hell will break loose over the 94 minutes that are to come when we see the imagery of a baby chewing on human flesh in quite the most casual of manners; it will ultimately be the lesser of evil visuals we endure.
A horror movie that flirts with a number of subsects of the genre – survivalist, cannibal and folk horror all teased – The Seeding works with the most basic of premises, but masterfully knows how to maximise its tension and unpredictability in spite of its narrative familiarity.
The premise centres itself around a hiker (Scott Haze) who gets lost in the desert and finds what he believes to be temporary shelter at a dilapidated house occupied by a seemingly lonely woman (Kate Lyn Sheil). Us horror aficionados are all too aware that such a house will come with its share of danger, and the lone woman’s demeanour suggests our poor hiker is done for, but when they are both menaced by roaming teenagers, all unhinged in some capacity, The Seeding suggests an Us vs. Them mentality – a horror trope that, when utilised successfully, can have enhanced results.
What’s perhaps most interesting about The Seeding‘s structure is that the hiker, who embodies the usual tortured victim archetype these films like to toy with – and should by all accounts be our hero – isn’t the easiest character to root for. Yes, the pain inflicted upon him is brutal so his state of mind is understandable in how he attacks those that either want to help him or hurt him, but, perhaps intentionally on Clay’s part, his nature doesn’t always place him in a sympathetic view from an audience perspective. It’s quite a fascinating turn of focus, but it ultimately makes sense for a film that delights in toying with expectation.
Where the greatest interest lies is with Sheil’s mysterious woman, whose motivations never appear clear as she flits between saint and sinner. There’s a vagueness to her personality that reflects on the film in general, resulting in a certain frustration towards certain dynamics and behaviours of the characters at hand.
An arthouse horror film that asks more questions than it can answer, The Seeding is a thinking man’s thriller, designed for audiences who crave their carnage on a more psychological level. Despite its slow burn nature Clay’s film is consistently engaging – even if you aren’t entirely sure what’s keeping you enthralled in the first place.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Seeding is screening as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, running between June 7th – 18th, 2021. For more information head to the official Tribeca page.