SEED (2007)

Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on October 31, 2007, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.


By now, the critical opinion of an Uwe Boll movie may seem like a foregone conclusion, but you should know that this review doesn’t come from a place of automatic dismissal of Boll’s output. I was no fan of House of the Dead or Alone in the Dark, but having seen the man in person at Fango’s East Coast Weekend of Horrors and Montreal’s Fantasia festival, it’s hard to truly dislike the guy. He seems wholeheartedly devoted to making movies, with a passion for doing things his way; heck, I even kinda liked his Dungeon Siege film In the Name of the King. And like any others, his movies deserve to be judged on their individual merits, or lack thereof. It is thus unfortunate that I must report that viewed on its own terms, Boll’s serial-killer shocker Seed falls way short.

Boll has said that Seed sprouted from his anger at the way he and his work have been treated on-line and in the press, and represents his stab at making a truly dark, uncompromising horror film. He proves he’s not kidding during the opening credits, which play over footage (blurred for the theatrical version but shown unaltered on the unrated DVD) of grotesque animal abuse—provided by PETA, no less. The intent is apparently part of an anti-death-penalty statement Boll weaves throughout his story of the murderous Max Seed, suggesting that in a truly humane world, even a convicted killer like Seed need not fall prey to the thirst for vengeance. Certainly there’s a lot of hand-wringing over the issue performed by the film’s protagonist, Detective Matt Bishop (Michael Paré).

Problem is, the villain isn’t an even remotely empathetic human being but a hulking, masked, Jason-esque monster (played by Will Sanderson) without a trace of feeling or conscience; if any screen character ever seemed worthy of eye-for-an-eye justice, it’s him. Sure, he may have been subjected to cruelty himself as a child, but the fact that (as the movie tells us) he has since viciously slaughtered 666 innocent victims would seem to suggest that the world might be better off without him. The case for preserving his life that Bishop and the movie put forth is wholly unconvincing, with the secondary result that that animal-torture footage comes off as sickeningly gratuitous.

The same goes for what is clearly meant as Seed’s horrific centerpiece: a long, single-take shot of a woman bound to a chair as Seed bashes her head with a hammer, again and again and again, until her face and skull are reduced to bloody pulp. It’s the kind of setpiece that makes an attention-grabbing highlight clip at conventions, and it’s certainly a virtuoso demonstration of how special FX can be used to disfigure a person’s cranium; what it lacks is any emotional connection, to the audience or to the rest of the film. We’ve never met this woman before and have no idea who she is, how she fits into the story or why her particular death is given more weight than any of the others. With no emotional connection made, the scene is a hollow technical exercise and nothing more; yes, it’s hard to watch, but so what? The nihilism Boll trades in here and throughout Seed, right up through its callous and misanthropic ending, is cheap and pointless, unconnected to any meaningful statement. The only message the film leaves one with is that life can suck and there are bad people out there who like to hurt other people, and it’s unlikely most viewers need a movie to tell them that.

Certainly not one as haphazardly constructed as Seed is. The basic plot is a variation on Shocker in which the imprisoned Seed survives three attempts to electrocute him, whereupon the law (in this film’s world, at least) states he must be allowed to go free. But the staff of the unsubtly named Sufferton Prison have no interest in setting the madman loose again upon the world, so they bury him alive in secret. Needless to say, Seed doesn’t stay underground for long, and sets out to wreak murderous vengeance.

One might reasonably assume that this pivotal event would take place at the end of the first act to motivate the real meat of the story, but Seed’s resurrection doesn’t occur until 50 minutes into this 90-minute feature. Part of the reason is that Boll drags out any number of bits of business in the film’s first half—the police driving to and creeping through a spooky house, Seed being strapped into the electric chair—to at least twice the length they require, giving the movie the feel of happening in real time. Once the maniac has finally burst from his grave and slain the warden, the pacing suddenly snaps to fast-forward: In the next scene, he’s in the midst of a new rampage that’s common knowledge to all concerned. Not that Bishop, who’s one of his potential targets, seems terribly concerned; he’s not motivated to immediately send his family (Homecoming’s Thea Gill as his wife and ubiquitous genre child Jodelle Micah Ferland as his daughter) away to safety.

If you think that’s implausible, try the fact that Seed is later able to get not only a whole bunch of remote video equipment but several bloody bodies into Bishop’s house in broad daylight. Or the fact that the villain apparently comes by said equipment fairly easily in 1979, when the movie is set. Beyond not having to deal with the whole cell-phone issue, perhaps Boll placed the action in that year as a homage to a decade in which, as we’ve been reminded so often by now, horror was tougher and meaner than it is today. But if the recent crop of “old-school” genre features has proven anything, it’s that the classics of that era had a lot more than bloodthirsty attitude going for them, and that simply replicating their gore and downbeat tone isn’t enough.

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