The Seed offers plenty of gooey, gloopy genre fun, but is ultimately too scattershot and arrhythmically paced to fully recommend.
There’s always room out there for an icky, squishy, old-fashioned alien invasion feature. Unfortunately, writer/director Sam Walker’s The Seed only gets part of the way there. Here, three friends have traveled to an isolated vacation home in the middle of the desert to witness a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower (and party while they’re at it). Deidre (Lucy Martin) is the ringleader, a social media influencer and self-proclaimed bully who plans on live-streaming the entire weekend to her followers. Heather (Sophie Vavasseur) is a willing accomplice, eager to ride her friend’s coattails and amass her own army of dedicated fans. Charlotte (Chelsea Edge) is something of a wallflower, possessor of an ancient flip phone and totally disinterested in social media. They’re an unlikely trio, and Walker never really gets across why they’d actually all be friends in real life. Of course, plausibility isn’t particularly important in a sci-fi/horror film, but the bigger issue here is that the women aren’t particularly interesting. Each is given a single defining personality trait and then seemingly left to their own devices, largely playing out the same interpersonal dynamics over and over again. Still, the actresses do their best with what they’re given; Vavasseur is quite good as she tries to constantly smooth things over between the bossy Deidre and the more reserved Charlotte, while Edge plays Charlotte as genuinely kind and guileless. At least the setting is unique — the vacation home is a thing of beauty, a green oasis in the middle of a vast, barren landscape (actually filmed in Malta, standing in for the Mojave desert). It’s all sleek, glossy surfaces and perfectly precise angles, shot in carefully composed, symmetrical frames by cinematographer Ben Ziryab.
Eventually the girls settle in, and after sharing some pot and some wine, get ready to observe the meteor shower. All seems well, other than their cell service dropping out at the worst possible time, until something splashes down into the pool. Assuming it’s a dead animal of some sort, the girls leave it be and instead go to sleep off their hangovers. When they awake the next morning, the thing has moved, leading to long, winding conversations about what exactly to do with this unknown creature (it should be noted that, at this point, not one of the characters suggests that it could be an alien, despite the unprecedented meteor shower that they have literally just witnessed, or the fact that this critter looks nothing like any mammal any person has ever encountered). Inexplicably, the narrative screeches to a halt during a long, deadly dull interlude where the women try to coerce a maintenance man into disposing of the creature, followed by an interminable fashion-shoot sequence.
Thankfully, around the halfway point things finally start to get interesting. Still stuck with no working cell phones, no way to call a cab or an Uber, and miles away from the nearest town, the women gradually begin to fall under some sort of spell. The alien creature is doing something to them akin to hypnosis, afflicting Deidre first, then Heather. This peculiar psychosis is rendered in woozy, dreamlike flashes of the women ensconced and writhing in slimy viscera, obscured just enough so that the audience isn’t exactly sure of what they’ve just seen. For its part, the alien critter remains largely immobile, with an odd, almost turtle-like neck, a beak of some sort, and large, expressive eyes. It’s an impressive low-budget practical effect, and as the women begin to transform, the effects get even better. There’s little noticeable computer work here, instead recalling the work of Screaming Mad George and his emphasis on tentacles and mounds of fleshy latex. We won’t spoil the ending here, but anyone who’s seen a film of this type before can guess where things are headed. This alien means to procreate, a process rendered in squirm-inducing detail that tilts the proceedings into full-blown body-horror territory. The Seed is ultimately too scattershot to be truly successful; the first half in particular plays like a series of short films strung together into a haphazard narrative, sapping suspense and any creeping dread in the process. But fans of gooey creature FX and gloopy tentacle mayhem will be rewarded for their patience.
You can stream Sam Walker’s The Seed on Shudder beginning on March 10.