One of the darkest and most memorable films featured at BIFAN in 2023 was Barnaby Clay’s The Seeding. It’s a simple, desolate, desert story that shares DNA with The Hills Have Eyes and Children of the Corn (good company, indeed). It’s a film that makes you scoot to the edge of your seat from the very first frame and keeps you there until the very last.

We follow our main character Wyndham (Scott Haze) as he encounters a lost child in the desert. He offers to help him find his parents and is led to a cabin at the bottom of a canyon. The ladder he climbed down is removed and he is stuck there with no explanation. The child is gone, but he encounters a woman living in the cabin, totally off the grid, named Alina (Kate Lyn Sheil). She offers minimal clarification to his predicament other than saying she can take care of him and there is no way out. 

As the movie progresses, we see several young boys standing at the top of the canyon heckling Wyndham. Some offer to help him, but it ultimately results in a form of twisted entertainment. The one who genuinely tries to help is soon made an example of. There’s a cult aspect to what’s going on above the canyon, but we never get a good look at it. There are some crude paintings on the canyon walls that are punctuated by vague, ominous statements from Alina. Wyndham comes to rely on her more after he is injured. She feeds him, gives him booze, washes his clothes and they eventually make love. You begin to get the sense they’ve done this before, perhaps several times. Wyndham is the marionette and the kids are pulling the strings.

The Seeding seems like it is really commenting on human nature. When all social norms fall away it’s surprising how quickly empathy goes out the window and is replaced with cold, cruel indifference. The one constant being the human race’s need to perpetuate itself, even when life no longer seemingly has value. These children are left to their own devices and let their most base instincts run wild. Unchecked testosterone punishes anyone who steps out of line and paints a cruel image of humanity on the cave wall. Instead of joining civilization these boys choose to perpetuate the ranks, pruning those who step out of line.

The Seeding leaves a lasting impression, in large part due to its striking setting, which in hindsight has some pretty relevant subtextual meaning. The two leads deliver fantastic performances and the kids are menacing as hell. It’s an extremely bleak film and at its core is about as chilling as a movie can be. When empathy is bred out of humanity, what’s left? It’s not a light question to ponder, but it’s one this movie aims to answer, and it may be an answer we don’t like.