Sunday, March 15, 2009

Seed (2007)

I sat down to watch what I expected to be yet another movie about a serial killer on the loose. Instead, I got a lesson in misanthropy. The entire movie is dedicated to making sure not a moment passes without causing us to feel dread and hopelessness. Over and over we watch as human and animal life is wasted.

It all kicks off with a disclaimer that you are about to see REAL footage with permission from PETA in order to further prove the point that the film was making. What follows is a disturbing video of a Chinese fur farm. Helpless animals are slammed on the ground, bashed in the head, stomped on, stabbed, and so on. Usually I can get past this sort of thing, but it was pitiful. It reminded me of a video we had to watch in a college ethics course. Half the class walked out that day.

Out of curiosity, I went to the PETA website and found this thread, which specifically points out that they were thrilled when Boll approached them with the idea of using the clip in his movie. Following the thread, you'll see the typical responses, including outrage that PETA would allow the use of such touchy material for a source of entertainment. In my opinion, Seed probably wasn't the best choice for spreading the word about animal cruelty. That is, it worked more to Boll's advantage than PETA's.

In any case, getting through real footage of a defenseless little animal having its neck and skull crushed under some guy's boot is just the beginning. Everything goes downhill from there.

The plot is fairly interesting. Max Seed, a vicious serial killer, is sentenced to the electric chair, but survives all three shock treatments. According to law, if the subject survives all three attempts, they must be set free. Not wanting to release a sadistic killer, the authorities cover it up by pretending that Seed is actually dead and then bury him alive. Two things wrong here: (1)
They bury him alive. Kill the guy by some other means and then bury him for cryin' out loud! Try lethal injection, a firing squad, hanging! (2) They use a total of four nails to seal his coffin. This is a homicidal maniac who just hours ago (I think) killed four guards with his bare hands in his cell. Head to Lowe's or Home Depot and spring for a whole box, please.

As expected, Seed escapes from his grave and begins wreaking havoc on the city, the murder count growing exponentially as a cop who was involved in the cover-up struggles to track Seed down and finish the job. We get to enjoy some horrific videos from Seed's personal collection as the cop watches them in order to find clues about what Seed is trying to tell them. The videos show mice, insects, human babies, adults, and family pets as they find themselves locked away in a room without food or water and slowly die and decompose. The baby is particularly unsettling. For just a moment we think the movie isn't going to show it, but we get just as much detail as all the other decompositions.

This movie really doesn't hold anything back. Any- and everyone is brutally slaughtered in some way or another. There is one scene in particular where Seed has a woman tied to a chair in her living room. Using a hammer, Seed teases and taunts the woman by starting with playful taps on her forehead, jaw, temple, the back of her head, and so on. As he starts to get more and more into the moment, Seed begins hitting harder and harder and we watch as the woman's skin softens, dimples, splits, gashes open, and ultimately her head becomes nothing more than a red stump. As gritty as it is, the camerawork and effects are extraordinary.

Boll drives his point home with an ending that is just as grim as the rest of the movie. Heroes die, villains live, human life is destroyed only for the purpose of destroying other human life. A lot of movies like to exaggerate these points by giving us a false sense of hope (Funny Games comes to mind), but Seed doesn't even try to do that. If anything, we are given a glimpse of hope at the end, but are quickly forced to relinquish it.

Seed may seem tasteless and cause some viewers to turn away before the story even begins, but it is well shot and the acting is decent (not that good acting is needed for a movie that is mostly scenes of torture). It was kind of like taking the idea of Saw and subtracting the fact that Jigsaw is doing what he does to help people. There never seemed to be any point to Seed's brutality, which was the main point. I recommend this movie to anyone who wants to watch a depressing, but creatively directed, hour and a half of life treated as filth.

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