Seeds (2018)

Seeds first published by SciFiNow

Wading on a shoreline in shallow sea water, young Lily (Uatchet Jin Juch) plucks out a large conch shell into which tentacles, initially protruding, withdraw into hiding. This scene, both primal and liminal, opens Owen Long’s Seeds, and recurs in dreamy flashback at several key moments during the course of the film’s main narrative, set several years later – but before that, we see another equally dreamy sequence in which Marcus (Trevor Long) cavorts with a naked woman who looks like Lily and who is sporting butterfly wings, and plunges his hand into what appears to be a giant chrysalis. He then calls someone on the telephone, announcing that there has been an accident – and that person, Evan (Kevin Breznahan), arrives with pills for Marcus, promising him, “I can take care of everything here.” It is a fragmentary, impressionistic introduction, planting suggestive seeds in the viewers’ imagination with its mysterious images (of entomology, sexuality and transformation) and its hints at something being covered up. 

After his father’s death, Marcus comes back to the large coastal estate, where he settles in and works at fixing the faulty wiring which, like the detuned shortwave radio that he has brought with him, serves as a metaphor for his own internal dysfunction. As Marcus’ brother Michael (Chris McGarry) races after his wife to sort out their marital problems, he leaves his children – the now teenaged Lily (Andrea Chen) and her younger brother Spencer (Garr Long) – in Marcus’ care. Over the next days, the images of the film’s opening will resurface, as Spencer collects and observes butterflies, and something tentacular lurks in the house’s shadows, waiting to emerge and reveal itself.

“It’s in your head, under the bed, inside – it must come out,” Lily tells Marcus. “You want to be free of it.” Like the house to which he has returned, Marcus is not quite right, but he is right enough to be deeply conflicted – split, even – over his relationship, both past and present, with his niece. And so this insect-driven drama follows Marcus in his medicated unravelling, as he struggles to contain what he knows must and will eventually manifest itself. A story of family secrets, mental illness and hidden monsters, Seeds uses narrative ellipses, hallucinatory dream sequences and occasional hiccups of disorienting, disjointed editing to circle around the unspeakable, irrepressible desire at its centre. As he intermixes fantasy and reality, the idyllic and the horrific, first-time director Long is assured in reifying his characters’ inner states, and finding perverse, gothic forms for unnatural feelings.

Strap: Owen Long’s directorial debut is a gothic, tragic tale of angels and insects, monsters and madness.

© Anton Bitel