September 9, 2008
Michael Pare as Detective Matt Bishop
Will Sanderson as Max Seed
Ralf Moeller as Warden Arnold Calgrove
Jodelle Micah Ferland as Emily
Thea Gill as Sandra Bishop
By the Pastor of Muppets
Uwe Boll, the much-reviled film auteur and screw-up, gets his catharsis on in the surprisingly good–no, wait, typically horrible–hold on, I guess it’s alright after all, Seed.
It has been reported that Seed is Boll’s answer to his often insanely hateful critics, the career of his onscreen serial killer paralleling the career of Boll himself. And that may well be true, because Seed starts out with some of the most unsettling, intensely gruesome footage ever committed to film. This footage has been sent (one supposes; a lot was left unclear in this movie, at least to me) by the serial killer Max Seed to the police, who are watching it at the station. The time-condensed shots of the maggoty decomposition of a deliberately poisoned dog, baby (oh yes, Uwe actually goes there), and woman in a dungeon cell are disturbing in the extreme, but at the same time the whole sequence is so well done that one’s horror glands begin to salivate in anticipation of something truly revolutionary. Boll, it seems, has gotten himself on a roll.
But alas, such is not to be. Boll is much less interested in, and committed to, the emotional impact and development of the rest of his story (Boll both wrote and directed Seed) than he is to the torture. Almost the entire middle section of the movie, which is mostly concerned with the cops, has a detached, bored quality about it, as if the cast were sleepwalking. The acting seems wooden and strangely subdued for people who are supposedly so outraged by the cruelty and sadism they’ve witnessed. Moreover, there are plot holes and ridiculosity (my word) a mile deep and a mile wide. At one point, Boll, in the metaphorical person of Seed, digs his way up out of the grave in which unscrupulous people have wrongly buried him, in a scene much too reminiscent of the intentionally asinine Kill Bill. Overall, though, I think the problem with the middle part of the movie is exemplified by that which plagues the movie’s musical score. The score is one where if you pay attention to it, you can see–ok, hear–that Boll has the right idea, yet that he lacks any real understanding of how to integrate it properly into the movie–or, maybe he just doesn’t care. The music, although appropriate enough in substance, just sort of burbles along like a stream when it should be roaring more like Niagara Falls. Consequently, the viewer is left to drift lazily along with it, like someone asleep in a rowboat.
So we drift, and we drift, with the only halfway interesting moments being those in which Seed is on the screen doing or preparing something dastardly. There’s a tense sequence near the beginning when the cops are going to arrest Seed after viewing his video, but the suspensefulness of it is almost completely due to the absurdly ineffectual flashlights the policemen are carrying. I mean, I know the movie is set in the seventies and all, but I was around in the seventies and I distinctly remember the existence of light bulbs stronger than 10 watts. I’m also pretty sure the reflectors inside flashlights weren’t all pencil beams. I don’t know…this was just one of the things I noticed that made me go, “Ok, I can distinctly see the director’s heavy hand at work here,” which ruined the immersion and the moment for me. On the other hand, maybe I’m just not used to seeing such total darkness in movies: there was no other lighting used in the scene, after all. Still, either way, there was something ginned-up about the whole thing that I noticed and it bugged me.
Yet for all the clumsiness of the middle of the movie, Boll winds things up with a shocker equal in effect to his beginning. (Suffice it to say his critics get their comeuppance by their own hand–a not very subtle final dig from the beleaguered director.) If Seed were a half-hour television episode, with the beginning and end kept whole and about 90% of the middle skillfully edited out, it would be a masterpiece. As it is, though, it’s an extremely uneven piece of work from a man who is clearly exorcising demons and therefore concentrating on certain aspects of his film at the expense of everything else. Judging by Seed, if Boll could work up as much enthusiasm for the quieter moments and for character development as he does for murder and mayhem, he could easily be one of the top horror directors of our era. But until he does, he will remain an also-ran, albeit one who elicits a definite glimmer of hope from time to time.