My notes on FrightFest selection Seeds (2018)
Cthulhoid tentacles, giant arachnoid pincers and tangles of dangerous electrical wires keep intruding into the frame in Owen Long’s debut feature – which might otherwise be taken for a chilly study in repressed urges and family dysfunction. Indeed, the monster movie reading of what actually happens in the film is probably less disturbing than the rational explanation, though Long doesn’t entirely discount the possibility that the protagonist really is gestating something unearthly or unnatural rather than simply failing to cope with a severe personality disorder.
Marcus Milton (Trevor Long) is presumably wealthy enough to employ a fixer (Kevin Breznahan) to supply him with meds for his jitters and take tidy up the unconscious (or worse) Asian girl lying in his shower. Fleeing this mess, he settles into his old family coastal estate (a Rhode Island location) and tries not to see the creepy-crawlies … while also obsessively tinkering with the ancient electrical system. When his brother Michael (Chris McGarry) has to run off to ‘the city’ to attempt a reconciliation with his wife Grace (Michelle Liu Coughlin), Marcus – Uncle M – is left in charge of his teenage niece Lily (Andrea Chen) and her younger brother Spencer (Garr Long) … and Lily seems to set out to seduce him, a fantasy scenario that uzips even darker instincts and leads to further crises, which eventually begin to rack up a body count.
Owen Long – who gets a story credit, though the script is by Steven Weisman – gets a lot of mileage out of simply uncomfortable moments of closeness, with uncle and niece huddled together in the widescreen frame, each on the point of making a move that will inevitably lead to trouble and recrimination, but most of the time poised on the brink of disaster as Marcus is distracted from the leggy teenager by much more obviously monstrous limbs. It’s a small, intimate story which doesn’t spell everything out – and risks sliding by without anything obvious happening until the last act, which does up the melodrama (and monstrousness). Seeds fits in with a vein of recent indie genre cinema (The Endless, Curtain, Pod, The Void, They Look Like People) which approach American mental health issues in terms of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Trevor Long – I assume he’s related to the director – has a familiar character actor face (he’s been in Ozark and stuff like Killing Them Softly and What Maisie Knew) but impresses in a rare lead role, and is matched well by Andrea Chen (who had a bit in Boyhood) as an Asian-American teen princess who might be subtly just as cracked as her mad uncle.
Here’s the FrightFest listing.
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