By Steph Cannon
The human soul has always been ingrained with the need to explore. What was once a necessity for survival has now become a hobby, a privilege, and at times a luxury. We expect our journeys to be experiences we will never forget - mementos tucked away in our minds thanks to the aid of physical reminders such as photos and souvenirs. What happens, though, when reality doesn’t meet our expectations? When the anticipated idyllic jaunt turns into a dreadful experience we can’t escape? THE SEEDING, written and directed by Barnaby Clay, takes an intense look at the dark side of exploration, and what can happen when we push the boundaries of how far we can go beyond the borders of society.
When we first meet Wyndham Stone (Scott Haze), he’s trekking through the California desert to experience and capture an eclipse through the lens of his camera. What starts as a once in a lifetime experience quickly becomes a worrisome conundrum as he finds himself lost and separated from any signs of civilization. Exhausted and dehydrated, he stumbles upon Alina (Kate Lyn Sheil), a woman living alone in the middle of the barren, harsh landscape.
It’s clear that Alina has been irrevocably isolated from society while living at the bottom of this nearly inescapable canyon, and she's barely able to communicate to Wyndham, but still offers him assistance. He quickly realizes, however, that there's something much more sinister taking place in this brutal desert setting.
When a group of near-feral boys begin to make an appearance, taunting and tormenting Wyndham with the promise of aid, he questions the motives of everyone he’s been in contact with, including Alina. Is she as benign as she seems, or is there something more insidious occurring amongst these sheltered humans?
THE SEEDING takes a twisted look at what isolation can do to people, and how societal obligations to conform to what is considered normal can differ from person to person. It’s a study of how a lack of nurturing and communication can lead to an overwhelming divide between those who have lived amongst others with a modern mentality, and those who have had it stripped from them.
Haze delivers a compelling and believable performance as a man pushed beyond his limits. We see him devolve from desperate but hopeful, to resigned and stoic, and ultimately to something much more bleak and defeated.
What’s most compelling, though, is the complicated relationship between Wyndham and Alina. The differences between them are more vast than the canyon Alina resides in, and the frustration over their breakdown in communication is evident immediately. This is the main component that draws you in and keeps you invested, but an entirely different layer of despair envelopes the plot once it takes a more complicated and twisted turn.
From a writing perspective, Clay does well with connecting the dots to explain character motivation and the reasoning behind their actions. Even if something may not make sense in the moment, it eventually becomes clear as the story unfolds, ensuring there are no plot holes to get in the way of viewer enjoyment.
From start to finish, THE SEEDING is a bleak, cheerless tale that examines the very worst of human tendencies. It’s the kind of film that will have you feeling grimy and somber after watching it - which is exactly the intention.
While it may not leave you with warm and fuzzy feelings, it’ll cause you to ponder what you would do if found in a similar desperate situation - and reconsider ever setting out on a solo trek into the wilderness.
THE SEEDING arrives in theaters and on VOD January 26, 2024