‘The Seeding’ is A Primal Descent into Savagery [Tribeca 2023 Review]

The Seeding

The Seeding is a terrifying primal scream across scorched earth. Barnaby Clay’s feature directorial debut navigates lunar cycles of savagery and existential isolation, interrogating the frenzied nature of the modern world and the roots of pernicious masculinity. Though at times frustratingly opaque and tonally inconsistent, The Seeding is one of Tribeca Festival’s most assured genre debuts this year.

The Seeding bobs uneasily in several different horror subgenres, melding the likes of Them, Eden Lake, and even Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist into a distressing horror cocktail. Scott Haze stars as the world’s most irresponsible hiker tasked with photographing a rare solar eclipse. Dialogue and action are sparse in the early beats, though the inciting incident speaks broadly to the hiker’s (unnamed until the credits) sense of self. A taut, masculine figure, he has few scruples wandering the desert by himself, and even fewer when it comes to chasing down a seemingly lost child he encounters en route to his car.

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The hiker is resultantly lost, stumbling either haphazardly or by design in the dark of night toward a single cabin in a wide crater. He climbs the ladder down and meets Kate Lyn Sheil’s (always a welcome presence) similarly unnamed woman. Simmering tension contextualizes their brief interaction, with Clay keeping it unclear whether that edginess stems from the characters or something even more primal—perhaps the earth itself. By morning, the ladder the hiker used to descend into the pit is missing, and so begins a nightmarish descent into ritualistic violence.

Billed as an evil kiddo feature, The Seeding is only vaguely, hazily interested in the more visceral demands of the genre. Title cards flip through the Farmer’s Almanac of full moons—the Sturgeon Moon, Beaver Moon—as the crater microcosm is seeded with blood and desperation. The evil boys appear akin to something like a Greek chorus, there to taunt and enact disturbing acts of cruelty. Hollow drums augment the slow unfurling of austere horror, the world beyond the horizon shrinking, rendering the crater the only visible sign of life.

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Symbolism abounds. Rattling cages and Pagan murals on the wall fill in the blanks, namely those tethered to Kate Lyn Sheil’s woman, the only notable female presence in the entire film. She is compulsively interested in the hiker, vacillating between hostility and nascent curiosity. Sheil probes the viewers’ identification, arousing vexation and surreptitiously demanding the audience choose sides, at one point seething, “Without woman, you all drown.”

Clay crafts an entire, primal world in his debut, questioning the nature of modern existence and what one needs beyond the most basic and animalistic of needs. Whether evil lurks within or beyond the walls of the crater, Clay never answers. Instead, he posits a world much like ours though smaller in scale, reducing it to a cycle of birth and death, one informed and threatened by conventional gender roles and the constraint innate therein. The Seeding could have benefited from a stronger tilt in either direction, with conventional scares undermining the mystifying, arthouse approach, though it’s as strong a debut as any. It’s a savage world out there and The Seeding won’t let you forget it.

  • The Seeding


The Seeding is a terrifying primal scream across scorched earth and one of the year’s most confident debuts.

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