Seed (2008)

Uwe Boll had some things he wanted to say with his low-rent horror flick, Seed. Like much of Boll’s output it’s based upon a video game. However, Boll opens the flick with a warning that footage of animal abuse and disturbing images will be incorporated into the movie. Seed gets the ball rolling with a two-minute montage of animals being cruelly beaten and mutilated before the title ever finds its place on screen. Boll’s opening text says that he decided to use this disturbing snuff footage because he “wanted to make a statement about humanity.” Yeah, sure Boll. Isn’t it a bit trite and easy to castigate the human condition for evil when you just roll out visceral real-life footage of cruelty? By highlighting the real stuff Boll is calling into question the significance of his whole stupid slasher movie. It opens with real-life cruelty and then plays out 90 minutes of fake cruelty, so what’s the point? I don’t think Seed has any interest in the subtext that can elevate horror movies. I think Boll just wanted to make his own torture-heavy horror film and found some animal abuse footage on the cheap (PETA probably gave it to him free of charge). The opening smacks of exploitation and opportunism and has zero thematic connection to the flaccid and empty-headed horror movie that follows. If I sound angry that’s because I don’t need to see animals having their skulls crushed in to get it.

Seed (William Sanderson) is a killer of astounding proficiency (for further details: see below). Matt Bishop (Boll BFF, Michael Paré) is the detective that’s been tracking Seed all these years. You can tell he’s a haunted cop because he has a drinking problem and hears the cries of dead babies. Eventually, Bishop tracks down Seed’s hideout and he arrests the murderous fiend. Seed is sentenced to die by the electric chair. The problem is that the prison doesn’t have a pristine electric chair, and the law says that if a man survives three jolts of juice then he’s free to go (for further details: see below). The warden (Ralf Moeller) decides to take command. He and a group of prison employees bury Seed alive and tell the world he died on the faulty electric chair. Of course Seed comes back and rekindles that old killing feeling.

If Sanctimony was Boll’s attempt to manufacture the clever Saw-esque serial killer, a higher scale of serial killers, then Seed is at the opposite end of the serial killer equation. This is a dull slasher movie and Seed is about as dull as killers can be. His main attributes are that he’s a huge guy with a sack on his head, which is kind of similar to about 1000 different slasher movies. He looks particularly close to Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I guess the slasher recipe is add one obscure mask plus one set of overalls plus dirt = killer. The guy has zero personality and is merely a silent killing machine that, in typical slasher fashion, always roams around at a deliberately slow pace. Sanderson (star of SEVEN Boll films) is unrecognizable as Seed and this is mostly because he wears a sack on his head and says maybe one thing for the entire 90-minute running time. I don’t recall Sanderson being as bulky either. Boll’s attempt at a horror movie wallows in exploitation and prolonged torture. As always, he’s late to the party.

Seed is credited as bring solely written by Boll, and the man screws it all up within minutes. When it comes to horror movies there will always need to be a somewhat healthy suspension of disbelief but only up to a point. Every movie no matter the genre or internal logic will have a breaking point. Seed cruises through that breaking point alarmingly early. Through the use of newspaper clippings, Boll introduces us to the backstory of Mr. Seed (he uses newspaper clippings for 90 percent of all exposition, meaning someone at the police department has a big thing for scrapbooking). We are told that from 1973-1979, Seed killed an astounding, and numerologically convenient, 666 people in those six years. Just take a second and think that figure over. One person in a ratty cloth mask and overalls killed 666 people. Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacey weren’t even anywhere near that figure and they are highly prolific serial killers. Boll wanted to make his serial killer scary but he totally overcompensates and destroys any credibility the film could possibly attain. Why 666? There’s no way it’s a coincidence considering the pull of that number in our pop culture. Was that a target quota for Seed? Did he make a chart to know when he was falling behind?

The sheer magnitude of that number obliterates the facade of “reality” Boll wants to create in his movie. These cops have to be the worst investigative unit in history. Seriously, could they not tabulate any clues or patterns or habits of Seed after 665 murders? I think the FBI would have stepped in hundreds of unsolved murders ago. And yet Boll then shows again how staggeringly inept these local cops are. They find out Seed’s home, which is of course a dilapidated shack in the middle of nowhere. This naturally begs the question that Seed would have to venture out long distances to find so many victims, and yet no witnesses of any sort? But Boll ignores this and steamrolls ahead. What showcases the utter stupidity of these boys in blue is that they ride out in the middle of the night, into the middle of the woods, and decide to raid Seed’s house with only six officers. I’m sorry, but if any man killed 666 people with his own hands then you don’t plan on taking him down with a small unit of cops who have already proven to be inept. You bring in tanks.

The premise itself is deeply flawed and begging for mockery. Seed proposes that there is a law on the books that somehow mandates prisoners must be set free if you can’t kill them after three jolts from the electric chair. We’re talking 45 second long jolts of 15,000 volts of electricity frying your brain. Your heart will eventually explode with all that electricity. So how does this law truly work? Surely no one would actually abide by it or fear that the government would punish them for breaking this law? Seed never specifies where it takes place, though the vibe I get is more southern, and they love to kill people in the South, especially Texas. Did the electric company propose this three-strikes-and-you’re-alive policy as an incentive to inmates? Do low-income prisons have a higher turnaround rate? Does this law cover firing squads and hangings as well? A judge and jury have found Seed guilty and sentenced him to be executed. That judicial ruling is not absolved because an inmate could withstand a high degree of voltage. The premise turns an execution into a contest.

Most slasher movies involve a near superhuman antagonist, and Seed follows suit. He can attack and kill four prison guards who try to gang rape him in his cell (what part of 666 kills says, “please expose your penis near me”?). He can step on a prison guard’s forearm and crush it so that it looks like a swaying doll part. He can bust out of a coffin and dig himself out of a grave. Now I did some quick math and a 6 feet by 6 feet by 3 feet grave is 108 total cubic feet. The lightest dirt will weigh is 42 pounds per cubic foot. That means that Seed had 4536 pounds of force weighing down on him in that grave. Yet he was able to free himself and go on his rampage. If Seed is this indestructible force then it’s ridiculous that Pare could kick him a few times and the man went down during the police capture. Which is the worse screenwriting sin? Having Seed wiggle out of 4500 pounds of force or the fact that the prison guards did a lousy job of BURYING ALIVE a man who killed 666 people! Why would you ever bury this maniac alive?! That seems hardly definitive. Common sense begs cutting off the man’s head just to be certain.

When it comes to horror movies, building an atmosphere is essential but there’s a notable difference between building dread and simply killing time. Boll does not know this difference. Seed doesn’t even get placed on the electric chair until 46 minutes in. The first 33 minutes of the movie is pointless because it retells Seed’s capture via a flashback while he sits on death row. Watching Seed finally get captured isn’t really important to the story, and a good half of that misspent time is simply gross and grainy home videos. Seed sends videotapes to the police to taunt them. The tapes are shot in a dungeon-like location and involve living creatures rotting thanks to the miracles of time-lapse photography. Naturally this raises two quibbles: 1) No one had personal video recording devices in the mid 1970s, let alone a maniac living in the middle of nowhere, and 2) watching dogs and babies die of dehydration and then decompose to ash means that these video projects took many weeks to accomplish. That’s a lot of time. Boll spends five plus minutes of screen time just showing these grainy snuff videos with the police recoiling. Perhaps the extent of their investigation was watching these gross videos and making faces. How many videos do the police have from Seed? It seems like Seed’s version of the fruit of the month club.

But getting back to misspent time, Boll thinks just holding onto a shot and not cutting makes it scary or tense. It doesn’t. I don’t need nearly two minutes uninterrupted of watching guards fiddle with Seed’s chains as they try and latch him into the electric chair. I don’t need almost a minute of one shot panning around a boat departing the prison isle. I don’t need nearly two uninterrupted minutes of watching the prison doctor’s bedtime rituals before he eventually gets murdered. I especially don’t need over five uninterrupted minutes of watching Seed hit a woman in the head with a mallet. I’m not being facetious when I tell you that he literally hits her 40 times until her head is purified into a bloody stump of a neck. Seed literally paints the walls with this old woman’s blood (how did this genius not get caught?). The soundtrack soars to laughable heights and the scene just goes on and on, figuratively bludgeoning the audience as well. Boll believes that just holding onto a moment of depravity makes it sinister. It doesn’t when there’s no audience connection whatsoever to the tired material. Boll does craft one nicely tense sequence where Pare and the cops capture Seed. There’s a moment when one officer is tiptoeing through the basement of Seed’s home and the only source of light is the flicker of the police siren. It’s visually appealing and works to create tension as well. But this moment is short-lived. I’ll never know how a burly guy can see through a cloth mask in the dark and sneak around in a dilapidated home filled with crap covered in tetanus.

It may be hard to notice for some, but Uwe Boll is actually improving as a filmmaker, at least from a technical standard. Seed looks like an actual movie. Seed is grisly and nihilistic and futile. The killer is a bore and the story is poorly structured, taking far too long to get Seed in the ground and wrecking havoc. Boll’s screenwriting shortcomings are fully evident as he strings together genre clichés and ridiculous plot points that obliterate credibility. He grasps at making statements about the human capacity for cruelty. Well I didn’t need a Uwe Boll movie to educate me on man’s inhumanity to man, especially one this shoddy and empty. This movie isn’t even entertaining; it’s a chore to sit through. This is the first Boll movie that I sat just waiting for it to be over. There is no reason to watch this thing. During the extended scenes of video watching by the police, one of the cops watches a baby decompose and replies, “Sick bastard.” I think Boll was projecting here. And I didn’t need footage of animals being slaughtered to reach that conclusion either.

Nate’s Grade: D-

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About natezoebl

One man. Many movies. I am a cinephile (which spell-check suggests should really be "epinephine"). I was told that a passion for movies was in his blood since I was conceived at a movie convention. While scientifically questionable, I do remember a childhood where I would wake up Saturday mornings, bounce on my parents' bed, and watch Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show. That doesn't seem normal. At age 17, I began writing movie reviews and have been unable to stop ever since. I was the co-founder and chief editor at PictureShowPundits.com (2007-2014) and now write freelance. I have over 1400 written film reviews to my name and counting. I am also a proud member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) since 2012. In my (dwindling) free time, I like to write uncontrollably. I wrote a theatrical genre mash-up adaptation titled "Our Town... Attacked by Zombies" that was staged at my alma mater, Capital University in the fall of 2010 with minimal causalities and zero lawsuits. I have also written or co-written sixteen screenplays and pilots, with one of those scripts reviewed on industry blog Script Shadow. Thanks to the positive exposure, I am now also dipping my toes into the very industry I've been obsessed over since I was yea-high to whatever people are yea-high to in comparisons.

Posted on September 1, 2008, in 2008 Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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