The Seed begins in a beautiful house in the remote region of the Mojave Desert where three friends wish upon a falling star—well, meteors, actually. Deidre (Lucy Martin), Heather (Sophie Vavasseur), and Charlotte (Chelsea Edge) have converged on this location to promote their social media channel with the help of the luxurious digs and a poolside desert oasis. They plan to film the once-in-a-lifetime event and gain a record number of followers. While Deidre and Heather are cybersecurity nightmares, relinquishing personal information to the platform of their choice, Charlotte remains content in her technologically repressed and social media-less world. Charlotte is immediately cast as the odd-woman-out through the ecological and economic prowess of keeping a phone past its expiration date, being the only one in the group with a real nine-to-five job, and the reserved costuming of a one-piece bathing suit. OMFG, amirite?
First impressions of The Seed and its stars are mixed. I like Chelsea Edge and her character right away but felt Martin and Vavasseur’s characters were dumping all over her character, leaving Charlotte in a reposit position—as if Deidre and Heather invited Charlotte along to pull a Carrie on her and weren’t actually friends with her at all. By granting eye-rolling vapidity to their characters, it makes Charlotte more likable, but I think it makes Deidre seem more vicious than your average Mean Girls. The idea is that, yes, hard-working nine-to-fivers have some resentment toward people being paid to unbox products and influence popular opinions but I think the concept is fast becoming a stereotype in how most are represented.
The poolside scene tries to make Deidre and Heather more complex by introducing their sex lives as a source of contention. Heather’s relationship seems to be waning, while Deidre seems to have on-again-off-again encounters with someone so long as her follows, likes, and subscribes are higher than any competing interests. I think it’s an interesting commentary on the social media spectacle, and here it amounts to the audience’s sympathy. Still, when writer-director Sam Walker uses it for conspiracy theory and urban legend jokes like planes freezing and dropping waste mid-flight or the validity of geo-magnetism, the commentary is on full display.
There is plenty of social media satire in The Seed, from naming product lines to Deirdre ignoring the celestial event they had gone to the desert to witness, but instead fights with her phone through much of the event. That brings about the plot of The Seed. The girls are forced to withdraw from their handheld lifelines because the wi-fi can’t connect and their phones begin to break. In the thick of it all, a putrid-smelling alien lifeform drops into the pool, and they can’t even post about it. Of course, Charlotte turns to books trying to identify the creature but the others audibly comment about how lost they are without Google.
As the meteors passed over Earth, I couldn’t help but think of the ’80s horror-comedy Night of the Comet. It was a favorite of mine as a kid, and it was always on cable back then. I’ve seen the female post-apocalypse parody at least a dozen times and was hoping The Seed was looking to venture into that territory with aliens and Instagram. To some extent, it does; however, its tone shifts a little too dark.
Common sense about the mysterious creature offers some conversational anomalies, with Deidre diplomatically stating that they shouldn’t touch the creature in case of disease and debunking Charlotte’s animal hybrid theories. It proves Deidre is capable of critical thinking without phones that she’s not as narrow-minded as some of her other contentious acts may have you consider. And as the days continue, she’s the first to consider extreme options when it comes to the festering creature in the backyard.
The characters are the heart of the movie, and the actors do an excellent job with what’s thrown their way. Regardless, the majority of the story feels like a series of improvisational “and then” work, especially at the start of the film. While much of the writing spoof social media satire, another theme of the movie feasts on the ladies’ biological imperatives. This first arrives with the creature seeking motherly protection, giving way to Charlotte wanting to nurture it and allow it to thrive. The alien eventually advances toward sexual provocation and ultimately dominance as an idol in a darkened bedroom. I don’t remember alien manipulation and interstellar gaslighting were never this extensive in The X-Files.
The hypnotizing sensory ecstasy the creature provides is probably the weirdest the film gets. Taking a page from Brian Yuzna, the engulfing sexual experience in The Seed looks a little like the melding experience in Society. And you can understand the easy comparison to Species given the emerging tentacles and cosmic ethereal body images. The fact that The Seed also ventures into some Freudian/Oedipal territory may also derive some Splice comparison as well. I can sort of understand all of that coming from the film’s cosmic misogynist looking to infiltrate a planet. It’s just pretty sleazy. And a movie called The Seed wouldn’t be named that unless body horror followed the crazy alien sexual encounter.
A lot of The Seed’s structure reminded me of Robert Woods’ An Ideal Host, another invasion horror-comedy about friends in a remote location who become witnesses to the terror of alien assimilation. An Ideal Host is a lot less intimate by comparison, more on par with Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, but fans of alien horror-comedies may enjoy the recommendation.
Overall, The Seed feels like it’s trying to pull off too much. The beginning gives you the opportunistic vloggers who demean everything unless it can be useful to them and then places them in a reversed situation. The irony of a troglodyte from the cosmos trolling social media hopefuls is rather hilarious, satirically speaking. The movie attempts to craft a message about being used, but I think it mismanages its characters and muddies the Creepshow style moral ending it’s trying to convey. The film’s finale keeps you on the edge of your seat along with some of the over-the-top bonkers stuff that happens. It’s likely to incur a lot of laughs for simply playing certain things too seriously. The Seed probably sits just above the middle of the road for me. While playfully divergent and charismatically gonzo, I think it could have benefitted from a bit more time in the writing process.
The Seed premieres exclusively on Shudder on March 10.