Childhood friends Charlotte (Chelsea Edge), Heather (Sophie Vavasseur), and Deidre (Lucy Martin) never get to hang out anymore. Adulthood has a tendency of keeping once-inseparable cliques apart, but they’re hoping a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower is just the excuse to finally get them together again. What better reason is there for Heather to use her father’s isolated modern mansion in the middle of nowhere? She can cajole Charlotte’s analog and low-maintenance “nerd” away from her 9-to-5 grind, as well as Deidre’s ultra-popular social-media influencer from her hectically vapid life by promising peace and quiet to the former and scenic livestream views to the latter. Maybe they’ll even have fun breaking from their usual routines to remember who they were all those years ago.

It’s a solid entry point into writer-director Sam Walker’s feature debut The Seed because it sets up conflict rooted in their pasts. Regardless of the impending celestial event we know going in will soon become more than an aesthetic light show via teases of “alien invasion,” the story’s foundation needs us to care about these women as more than that ordeal’s victims. The obvious jabs that Deidre takes at Charlotte’s expense thus seem to possess more weight than appearances may presume. We ready for the chasm between them to bear fruit with Heather’s non-combative pickle-in-the-middle playing unwitting mediator as someone who admires them both as a social-media personality herself who also appreciates some of life’s simpler things. How will the cosmic horror impact their characterizations?

I wish I could say the answer reveals some unique insight; that’s unfortunately not the case. Deidre is and always will be a bully. Heather has no ambitions to be anything other than a follower. And Charlotte’s bleeding-heart, blue-collar motivations will continue to keep her at arm’s length. The sudden appearance of a bear-like armadillo falling from the sky into their retreat’s pool doesn’t change any of that. It amplifies everything instead. Heather wishes it’ll just go away. Deidre is ready to bash its brains in so that its presence stops ruining her plans for a photoshoot. And Charlotte seeks to play protector, nursing this crying animal back to health. They choose their sides and Walker lets them loose to follow those paths to their logical ends.

That’s pretty much the entirety of The Seed. He concocts the premise, drops this trio of two-dimensional archetypes in the middle, and decides that’s as far as he needs his script to go. Even as no cosmic horror aficionado, shouldn’t there be a need for more than hallucinatory sequences (the alien “sex” scenes are very effective both in their aesthetics and grotesque discomfort) and graphically rendered brutality? There’s so much here to mine, whether the women’s differing opinions on the internet—once they lose signal, this notion almost completely disappears besides a capitalistic desire for exploitation that doesn’t quite ring true with hypnosis in play—or a potential conspiracy (the neighbor’s tech set-up and drawings are primed for exploration). It’s all just noise.

Is that enough? It certainly will be for some. It might even be enough for me if I decide to watch it again knowing that’s all I’ll get. Because Walker builds this mystery, though, it’s difficult not to be let down, sight unseen, by how much is left unsaid. I kept waiting for him to take us beneath the surface only to discover there was nothing there to see. These women are here to be used as pawns. Their glaring personality differences exist to isolate a potential savior. And the introduction of evidence leading us to believe this thing is bigger proves a means to an end where it concerns a familiar final girl climax of futility. Our enjoyment is thus predicated on style, not substance.

I’ll give Walker full marks there. This film looks great, with impressive production value that’s never better than those dream-like states of blurred reality. The alien itself has an entertaining personality despite its puppetry being somewhat limited (the way it lounges in bed with unearned confidence conjured some laughs from me) and the gore during the conclusion (blood and black oil alike) will satisfy fans. I would have liked a bit more on the comedy front, though. Brett the gardener (Jamie Wittebrood) is a stereotypical dimwitted hick who provides some situational humor, but the rest is generally relegated to tired knocks on influencer culture. The tone ultimately shifts towards farce once the alien starts taking control, but it’s cut short by the necessity of closure via violence.

It wants to be funny and polished and sometimes even finds that sweet spot. If I were to make a comparison I’d say The Color Out of Space meets Revenge. Because many of you will probably read that and salivate at the prospect, I’ll add a caveat explaining how I was mixed on both of those too. The actors are game for what that combination demands (Martin revels in Deidre’s materialism, Edge embraces Charlotte’s pragmatism, and Vavasseur is raw nerve of extremes trying to stay sane in-between), but they never quite get the room to show it before the script demands they hit their mark on the next plot progression. If Walker has some interesting ideas and an eye for panache, the whole leaves much to be desired.

The Seed streams exclusively on Shudder starting March 10.

Grade: C

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