Seed was the one film at Frightfest 2007 that caused a visible stir. It polarised the audience and actually instigated a Springer-style shouting match during the post-film Q&A. Its director Uwe Boll had already screened another new film just prior to Seed – an OTT political satire, Postal – and whilst the latter tackled topics as controversial as suicide bombing and Nazi theme parks in the most tasteless ways possible, it was surprisingly well-received. No one seemed unsettled. Most people laughed. Seed, however, got them rankled.
Considering the audience had already sat through two and a half days worth of torture, beating, killing and hard gore, you’d think they’d be immune to such themes but the difference is in the presentation. Whilst many of these films present their violence in an exploitative manner, aiming for shock and/or titillation, Seed takes a far more clinical approach. There’s almost no humanity whatsoever in the film. There is intentionally rudimentary characterization. The viewer isn’t manipulated into rooting for anyone or feeling anything. Instead, we’re just presented with cold, detached scenes of violence perpetuating violence. This makes for an upsetting and disturbing experience. It’s not an easy ride.
Seed opens with an epigram of sorts: “Everything that has arisen must be destroyed.” This is scrawled on the wall of a torture chamber belonging to Max Seed, the film’s disfigured, masked serial killer. When the electric chair fails to kill Seed, a group of policemen and government officials who long to see him dead decide to bury him alive in what they believe to be a vegetative state (according to Boll, this is based on an incident that actually occurred in the 1970s – the period in which the film is set). Seed manages to break free of his grave and wreaks vengeance.
I know what you’re thinking already. This sounds like every last formulaic stalk’n’slash fest imaginable. It isn’t. There are no heroes, no long, suspenseful chases. Victims are dispatched with quickly and methodically. Seed, the character, is more a metaphorical representation of violence than a cartoonish immortal ala Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. When more cruelty is applied as a means of stopping him, it merely increases his rage and sadism. Both the hatred and murder mount as the film goes on. The denouement is bleak and spiteful. There is no hope or a light at the end of tunnel, with the point being that if man’s unbelievable inhumanity continues, there never will be.
Director Boll’s decision to use real animal torture footage in his movie (supplied by the charity PETA, who receive 2.5% of the film’s revenue) at first seems gratuitous but, by the end of it all, I could understand his decision. Seed is a very strong and pointed anti-violence statement. Through its minimalist and non-linear screenplay, experimental visuals (much of it is lit by natural sources which makes it a dark experience in more ways than one!), and its uncommercial lack of emotion or pace, its agenda is given power. Whereas its sister piece, Postal, shows today’s violent climate as something absurd – an empassioned plea for peace masked in riotous satire – Seed is just a stark reflection of the ugliness.