Review: Seeds

Urges and family ties create an unnerving experience in Owen Long’s Seeds.

Marcus (Trevor Long) is a man with an affliction, and when an untimely accident occurs with his lover, he retreats to his family home by the sea to lay low while his drug dealer takes care of things. His brother Michael (Chris McGarry) must deal with his crumbling marriage, so Marcus agrees to look after his niece and nephew Lily and Spencer (Andrea Chen and Garr Long) while Michael tends to his estranged wife.

Lily is a teenager beyond her years, and becomes yet another problem for Marcus who forces himself to resist her immature advances because his affliction is getting worse, and what once looked like substance abuse slowly shows itself to be much more; haunting him as his mental health deteriorates and his life takes the form of a nightmarish fever dream.

Seeds will leave you perplexed until the last frame.  It’s a beautifully shot film, with gorgeous use of light and focus by Korean cinematographer Eun-ah Lee, but the audience isn’t going to get a nice linear story.  There are flashbacks to Lily as a little girl, nightmares that seem real, and a general sense of unease that never goes away, mostly due to the relationship between Lily and her uncle Marcus. Depending on the perspective, she is either relentless in her pursuit of Marcus or it’s him that has to control his urge not to pounce on the young woman. I’m not sure if this pairing of an older white man and a teenaged Asian girl put me off because of the taboos with incest or if her race was the issue, especially since both Marcus and his brother seemed to have a pattern with Asian women in the film.  Marcus clearly had mental issues he was working through that fueled his delusions but I’m on the fence with that type of objectification and stereotype here. The director’s wife Younny Long however, is Asian as well as the film’s executive producer, so there’s hope that her’s and actor Chen’s voice behind the scenes kept things in check and her race is merely incidental.

Amidst the understated performances, Long does a great job as Marcus and gives us a unique version of a man descending quietly into his own private hell before your eyes. Having your brother as the director could go either way, but it’s clear they make a good team.  Again, you have to hang in until the end with this slow burner served with a pinch of body horror. Long and screenwriter Steven Weisman are clearly influenced by Cronenberg and Lynch; and Long has described his film as a cross between The Shining and Lolita, but you may also get inklings of Spider, Twin Peaks, and Canadian horror The Crescent which has a similar eerie feel.

This strange, disjointed film isn’t a typical horror film, and I’m certain it’s not for everyone, but that’s ok.  Seeds won’t give you a neat package of protagonist/antagonist or a reliable guide in this journey, but it will definitely leave you with some disturbing images and an unsettling urge to check your closets before you go to bed, especially if you live by the water.

Catch Seeds in U.S. theatres September 13.