‘The Seeding’ (2023) Review: A Beautiful and Predictable Desert Thriller

The Seeding is a dark tale of isolation and entrapment set in the desert. Read on to learn what it’s about and whether or not it delivers on its intriguing premise.

The Seeding is the first narrative feature from writer/director Barnaby Clay. (pictured: Scott Haze as Wyndham Stone)

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The Seeding is a movie about being trapped. It’s also a movie about feeling trapped. Written and directed by Barnaby Clay, The Seeding strives to be tense, dramatic, and maybe even a little disturbing. Though it succeeds beautifully in some ways, the movie also sometimes feels as empty as the desert it’s set in.

What is The Seeding About?

Wyndham looks around while standing in front of a rundown house in The Seeding (2023).
Wyndham surveys what will soon become his new home.

The Seeding follows Wyndham Stone (Scott Haze), a photographer who ventures into the desert to take pictures of a solar eclipse. Late in the day, Wyndham comes across a whimpering boy who says he’s lost. Wyndham helps the boy (seemingly more out of obligation than compassion), but the boy ditches Wyndham after leading him further into the desert. Hopelessly lost, Wyndham discovers a small house in a canyon surrounded on all sides by sheer rock walls. Seeing light and hearing the voice of a woman, Wyndham descends into the canyon and stays the night. In the morning, the ladder he climbed down into the canyon on is gone, and Wyndham cannot escape.

The rest of the movie is set within the canyon as Wyndham and the woman, Alina (Kate Lyn Sheil), attempt to coexist. Above them, the ever-present threat of a group of vicious boys of various ages ensure that Wyndham and Alina stay trapped in the canyon, but it also ensures that they are kept alive through periodic drops of supplies. While there are some horror elements throughout the movie mostly due to the boys who torment Wyndham, The Seeding plays out as a psychological thriller and a drama. So, even though the movie is about a man trapped in the desert with a mysterious woman, it’s really about Wyndham’s state of mind as he tries to mentally cope with the situation he’s found himself in.

What The Seeding Does Well

The rock walls of the canyon show how insignificant Wyndham is in The Seeding (2023).
The Seeding was shot on location in Kanab, Utah.

The first thing you’ll notice about The Seeding is how great it looks. The desert setting is filmed beautifully thanks to cinematography by Robert Leitzell. Even though the story is set within a single location, the rock walls of the canyon almost never look the same from shot to shot thanks to the magnificent way they are filmed. This helps the movie continue to be visually interesting throughout, and it juxtaposes well with the rundown house in the center of the canyon. The house, little more than a shack, looks dreary, and after a while the sameness of the straight lines of the corrugated metal walls become almost depressing when set against the natural ridges of the canyon. It looks fantastic, and the dichotomy of the setting is a good metaphor for the metal state of the movie’s main character.

Speaking of the main characters, Wyndham and Alina are both performed very well by Scott Haze and Kate Lyn Sheil respectively. There isn’t a ton of dialogue throughout The Seeding, but both actors admirably pull off the nuance needed for a quiet movie that relies on tension, suspense, and subtlety. For much of the film, Alina is almost like a blank canvas. She rarely speaks, but her quiet and motherly nature says a lot when Wyndham is very audibly struggling with his situation. Wyndham isn’t a likable character, and that’s always a thin line to tread when someone like that is the conduit for the audience. But again, both Haze and Sheil inhabit the characters in a way that keeps them compelling even when you, as the viewer, aren’t entirely sure what to think about either one of them.

Also, The Seeding has a good premise. Though it saves its big reveals for the final act, savvy viewers will likely pick up on what’s really going on very early in the movie’s run time. As in, they will probably figure everything out within the first twenty to thirty minutes. But even if you realize what is happening well before the movie explains it, the proceedings become an exercise in simmering dread. For those who prefer dread to outright horror, The Seeding performs well.

Where The Seeding Falls Short

Two young men look down into the canyon in The Seeding (2023).
With a couple of exceptions late in the movie, the boys at the top of the canyon are an annoyance more than anything else.

One thing you might discover is that The Seeding seemingly sets itself up as something that it isn’t. The trailer focuses on the more thriller/horror aspects of the movie which feels misleading when watching the actual film. There is horror in the movie, but it certainly is not the main focus. Of course, that isn’t fault of the movie itself, but it still might set you up for expectations that aren’t met. The opening scene of The Seeding also appears to foreshadow a more horror-centric approach. The first thing we are shown as the movie begins is a filthy toddler, alone in the desert, chewing on a human finger. Even though that opening scene does make literal sense by the end of The Seeding, the image of a cannibalistic toddler becomes less literal and more thematic by the end of the movie because of what director Barnaby Clay chooses what to show, and what not to show, on screen.

The Seeding also suffers a little from what are supposed to be the movie’s main antagonists. An argument could be made that Wyndham is his own worst enemy and that the main conflict in The Seeding is internal, but, physically, the boys seen surrounding the top of the canyon are the flesh-and-blood enemies that Wyndham tries to overcome. Unfortunately, the boys never seem too threatening. That’s likely due to a lack of screen time for the boys which leads to all of them being rather faceless and flat. The idea of a bunch of near-feral boys is much more frightening than the actual boys we see every once in a while.

A bird in a cage in a shack in a canyon in The Seeding (2023).
There are visual metaphors throughout The Seeding which look nice. However, images like a bird in a cage, though perfectly valid and effective, are quite obvious.

Even though the boys didn’t get much quality screen time, the movie itself might have too much screen time overall. The Seeding is about 100 minutes long, but it feels longer. The story is straightforward enough that it doesn’t need extra time to be understood, and the drama between Wyndham and Alina isn’t necessarily complex enough to warrant 100 minutes either. For some people The Seeding will be a good slow-burn, but for many people it will just be slow.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Kate Lyn Sheil smiles as Aline in The Seeding (2023).
Kate Lyn Sheil stands out in The Seeding for her great performance.

The Seeding is caught somewhere between an arthouse drama and an indie horror movie. If it had picked one direction over the other and committed more fully to either, it would have been better for it. As it is, the movie is like Woman in the Dunes (1964) but far less dramatic, and Jack Ketchum’s Offspring (2009) but far less horrific. It’s a well-acted movie that looks fantastic, but it doesn’t have enough substance to justify its length (which feels longer than it actually is).

Viewers who enjoy indie dramas with dark sensibilities will get the most out of The Seeding. If you’re expecting horror akin to The Hills Have Eyes (1977 & 2006), then you’re going to be completely disappointed. The Seeding is for patient viewers who enjoy a slower pace, arthouse-adjacent psychological thrillers, and straightforward themes.

The Seeding was released in limited theaters and on video-on-demand on January 26, 2024. It is currently available to rent on Amazon Prime Video and other VOD sites.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.