Seed Review

Max Seed is one of America's most wanted. Accused of the murder of 666 people, he taunts the police with videotapes of his victims in his makeshift dungeon, starting with insects and animals and going on to babies and young women. Each victim is filmed through their final moments and their death to the rotting of their corpses. Seed sends these tapes to the police, who watch them through the sound of dogs whining and babies crying. The cop who leads the investigation, Matt Bishop (Michael Paré), is close to a breakdown. He sips whiskey in the office, dreams of Seed's killings at night and leafs through Seed's file in the hope of finding something to lead him to the killer. Eventually, they get a lead and, on one pitch-black night, Bishop leads a raid on an isolated farmhouse. Bishop arrives with five patrolmen but through traps set by Seed, he leaves alone. His consolation is that he has Seed in the back of a patrol car. The case against Seed seems closed.

In prison, Seed waits on death row. He is to be executed by electric chair but refuses all of the trappings that comes with his last day. He has no last words. He simply sits in his cell and waits to be executed. When his time comes, Seed disappoints Warden Arnold Calgrove (Ralf Moeller) by surviving not one electric jolt but three. Under US Federal Law, any convict who survives three 15,000 volt jolts from the electric chair for 15 seconds is granted their freedom but rather than see such an unrepentant killer as Seed back on the streets, Calgrove decides to bury him alive. Seed will be blind and burned beyond all recognition. It's believed that he won't survive long...

There's a rumble of excitement that greets the release of a Uwe Boll film. Not quite the same as that which accompanies a new Bond or something that bears the familiar Star Wars logo, the thrill in the audience is of a wanting for the film to crash out of cinemas, the sell through market and a critical appraisal with all the grace of sumo ballet. Moreover, the rumble is from people wanting to be offended, believing that Boll can no more handle a camera a horse can perform surgery. Then there's his devotedness to Michael Paré and Ralf Moeller and such pigheadedness as to challenge his critics to a boxing match in the hope of silencing them. These people see Boll doing for movie directors what Peter Sutcliffe did for Yorkshire taxi drivers. People want to dislike Uwe Boll. And for precisely those same reasons, I want to like the man. And like him I do. As well as the boxing match, he called Michael Bay a, "motherfucking retard." He made Postal. What's not to like? And when Seed falls into what seems his natural home, #91 out of the IMdB's bottom 100, I warm to him even more. Keep him directing.

Following on from the aforementioned Postal, Boll's post-modern retort to his critics (with added Dave Foley penis), Seed finds the director on bleak and uncompromising form. It's a thriller that, often without warning, veers into outright gore. It has a torture scene that vies with Irreversible for its relentlessness, albeit that it descends into obvious CG. It makes good (if unscientific) use of video footage to taunt its police. It's use of a crying baby might be foolish but it still manages to be upsetting. Add to that PETA-sanctioned footage of raccoons being beaten, stamped on, sliced at with knives and skinned alive - the unprepared might find themselves stopping Seed within its first five minutes - and you have some signs of Boll finally figuring out this business.

There are a lot of things that Boll does well. Seed's jumbling around of timelines and events serves to unsettle its audience. Not only is it difficult to pin Seed down to what's going on but it's just as hard to put it in any particular era. The use of the unsimulated PETA footage, if exploitative, does at least allow to the nastiness of the film to gain a foothold while the executions are suitably blood-stained, even to it dripping out from underneath the mask that Seed (and another) wears. But better than these scenes is Boll's pacing of Seed. Instead of the surplus of cuts in earlier films, not least his chopping about of the film to disguise his sometimes hopeless special effects, we have Boll building up the tension in his film by keeping things close to real time. The drive through the woods to arrest Seed might have been trimmed to a minimum by another director but, for the better, Boll cuts it long and leaves his audience feeling as uncomfortable as his cops, particularly so when, by torchlight and the flashing lights of the patrol cars, they search workshops and basements to find such tools of the serial killer trade as dolls, creaking steps and power tools. At least half of it is barely visible but it engages the viewer in ways that Alone In The Dark never did. The executions are conducted in a similarly unhurried manner, in real time or so close to it as to be immaterial, as is Bishop's leaving the island prison with, he believes, Seed safely in the ground.

Of course, this may simply have been Boll disguising his very slim tale by padding it out with longer scenes than is necessary but if that's the case, it's a happy accident that it works so well. If nothing else, it stands apart from Boll's earlier films by the way in which it refuses to avert its gaze from the violence. However, it's not a perfect film by any means. In Seed, Boll gives us a menacing lunk of a villain, not unlike Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees, who's almost supernatural in his ability to survive. Then, having established that, he has Bishop take down Seed with a couple of lucky punches, which makes even less sense when he proves able to survive three attempts at execution. He also seems to be able to move very stealthily for someone grossly overweight and with a penchant for dungarees.

The bigger problem with Seed, though, is that it's hard to understand the point that Uwe Boll is making. It all just seems so very muddled. Using the PETA footage that opens the film, which Seed watches on an old black-and-white television, Boll seems to be saying that not only is humanity capable of unspeakable acts of cruelty but that watching such things dehumanises the viewer. He makes this point once again at the film's end. Perhaps it's a contrariness on his part that has him break with the convention that says that horror movie directors must defend their work by saying that watching horror has no effect on the viewer but Boll's point seems to be that violence begets violence. That's not the first time that anyone's made that point but to hear it from a man responsible for Bloodrayne, Alone In The Dark and Postal is more surprising.

Then again, that may not be his point at all. Seed may just be saying that humanity is capable of inhuman deeds but with its villain not saying anything, there's no clear message. Instead, it works well enough as a horror film to justify itself. Boll ensures that Seed has a style about it. He stages many of the scenes convincingly while his horror is certainly gruesome. However, more than just this being an effective movie, taken alongside Postal, it shows how Boll is almost a completely different director from that responsible for Bloodrayne, showing an understanding of pacing, of horror and of plot. Even his actors, who often randomly walk in and out of Boll's films, seem to know what they're about, particularly Michael Paré. The pity about Seed, though, has nothing to do with any of this. Instead, it's that Seed, no matter how good it might be (or have been) is a Boll film and that's enough for many. I, on the other hand, enjoyed this plenty. Sign that petition and hope that the doctor stays in business.


As this viewer remarked on seeing Postal, no matter what you might think about Boll, he can actually shoot a film and make it look good. Seed comes with a decent anamorphic picture. It's muted and very dark, so much so that it's genuinely difficult to see what's going on at times, but that seems to be intentional. Indeed, the scene in which Bishop leads a raid on Seed's hideaway might well be the gloomiest thing ever to have been filmed but that makes sense when Seed appears out of the darkness. However, at other times, such as Bishop's dream sequence, in the execution chamber and in Bishop's coming home, the picture really isn't at all bad. Perhaps not as sharp as was Postal but really not bad at all.

There is a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks and there's a clear difference between them. Seed makes some great use of the rear channels on the surround track with there being plenty of moments when Boll sets the scene with ambient effects. That aside, both tracks are fine with what dialogue there is, and there isn't much, being clear and standing out from the background effects and music. The highlight, though, is probably the torture scene, which adds together music, the spray of blood and the thud of hammer on flesh to good effect. Finally, there are English subtitles.


There isn't very much on this disc, at least not when comparing it to the Region 1 release of Seed. Where it was given an audio commentary, a short film, deleted scenes and a video game, we only get a Trailer (1m29s) and a brief Behind-The-Scenes (10m00s) of the making of the execution scene.

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Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:29:01

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