Making a good B-movie is harder than it looks. If you don’t perfectly calibrate the film’s tone and pacing, you risk losing the audience entirely. Such is the case with writer/director Sam Walker’s feature debut The Seed, which premieres on Shudder on March 10. Though it features strong performances and suitably goopy creature effects, the film falters in its pacing and tonal shifts. Worst of all, The Seed exhibits a nasty misogynistic streak.
Three childhood friends — Heather (Sophie Vavasseur), Charlotte (Chelsea Edge), and Deidre (Lucy Martin) — decide to spend the weekend at Heather’s family vacation house, an isolated state-of-the-art oasis in the middle of the Mojave desert. They plan to get high, enjoy a “once-in-a-lifetime” meteor shower, and — for yogi Heather and model/influencer Deidre, at least — take as many luxurious photos as they can for their adoring social media fans. The meteor shower is odd, though: the meteors travel in different directions, and one of them lands in the pool as the girls drink margaritas. When they fish it out, it turns out to be a strange animal. The friends spend most of the weekend stressing over how to get rid of the smelly, unidentifiable creature…until it starts exhibiting disturbing behaviors, and then the women realize that they have an entirely different problem on their hands.
It’s an intriguing premise if you’re not already tired of movies poking fun at influencer culture: Instafamous women vs. aliens. It sounds like good B-movie fun, right? Unfortunately, while there are individual parts of this film that succeed, it never quite comes together as a whole. Pacing issues plague The Seed as it meanders in the middle; you can feel Walker trying to find the best way to marry the film’s comedy and horror elements. When Deidre complains that they’re spending too much time trying to decide what to do with the “bear-thing” (the women can’t decide what the creature looks like, alternately calling it a bear, an armadillo, or just “the thing”), the viewer can’t help but agree with her. When its impressively grotesque effects work takes center stage late in the film, The Seed aims for Brian Yuzna’s Society as seen through an Instagram filter, but its social satire feels hollow in comparison.
The Seed also comes across as very misogynistic. It’s overly fond of bikini shots — which, of course, is nothing new in horror: B-movies have a long history of showing off women’s bodies. But it feels particularly exploitative and mean-spirited in a movie making fun of women who make their living posting alluring photoshoots online. The Seed mocks Deidre and Heather for showing off their toned bodies in bikinis and yoga wear, but it still encourages the viewer to ogle them, with its slow pans up and down their figures and constant framing of their legs and breasts. The film wants to demonize the women for the very same thing it revels in. Add in a late reveal about the “bear-thing’s” true motives, and the exploitative focus on women’s bodies becomes even more uncomfortable.
The cast members do the best they can with the uneven script and questionable treatment of women. Martin’s Deidre is terrifying even before a mysterious shrieking creature crash-lands into the pool. Her mean girl influencer gets the best lines (even though they don’t all work, despite Martin’s best efforts), and when things take a turn for the sinister once the bear-thing starts to show its true nature, she works in some compelling body horror work with her eerie movements alone. Charlotte is the social media-averse bleeding heart who wants to save the creature, and Edge really sells her empathy, along with her disillusionment with her friends’ obsession with likes and followers. Heather is stuck in the middle and just wants everyone to get along, and Vavasseur’s faux-spiritual mediator who can’t make a decision balances out Charlotte and Deidre well.
There are few things as fun as a well-executed B-movie. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of its cast and effects department, The Seed can’t quite live up to its tongue-in-cheek creature feature ambitions. While it’s tempting to forgive a first-time feature director for pacing or tonal issues — many of the comedy and horror elements do work, and the film finds its footing again in the third act after floundering in the second — the misogyny is much more difficult to ignore. If it’s possible to balance the social media satire with the desire to ogle the cast, it requires a far more deft hand than Walker has demonstrated in this film. Ultimately, The Seed ends up just like its alien creature: the longer it sticks around, the less welcome it is.