Seed (Will Sanderson) sits at home watching black-and-white footage of animal cruelty on a portable TV set. As in the rest of the film, Seed is hooded.

Onscreen text tells of a state law stipulating that any prisoner who survives three surges from the electric chair must be granted their freedom. This is claptrap but provides a convenient plot mechanism that allows for all the brooding and violence to follow. It also affords director Uwe Boll the opportunity to toss in a gratuitous execution scene. The sequence is gory, slickly edited and surprisingly attentive to detail.

Then we meet Bishop (Michael Pare), who watches helplessly on a crowded bus as the huge Seed takes a baby from its mother. Bishop wakes sweating beside his girlfriend. Phew, it was just a dream.

Meanwhile prison warden Calgrove (Ralf Moeller) throws some light on the scenario by rifling through newspaper cuttings: Seed is America's worst serial killer, having slain 666 people in 6 years; Bishop is the cop who brought him to justice.

In prolonged flashback we see how Seed was caught. This begins with Bishop and his men weeping while watching Seed's home movies depicting the imprisonment and slow starvation of first a dog, then a baby, and then a woman.

The flashbacks continue as we join Bishop and co on a raid of Seed's home. A lengthy drive there is followed by an even lengthier torchlit search of the premises (including a booby-trap that results in a pickaxe being embedded in one cop's skull). Eventually Seed is caught.

When it comes to Seed's execution, a small public gallery gasps as he's given two blasts on the electric chair. A doctor advises Calgrove that Seed's heart is still beating. With a nervous lackey protesting that the chair in use is decrepit, Calgrove announces Seed's demise. Seed is later buried alive in the prison courtyard.

But Seed doesn't stay long in his admittedly shallow grave. And when he rises he has only thing on his mind. Revenge.

SEED is an unexpectedly accomplished film. It often looks great, with stylish dark cinematography and mist-filled sets. The set design and attention to minor detail (both period and procedural) are commendable, as is the unrelenting tone of despair and hatred. This is a bleak, oppressive hardcore horror film the likes of which we seldom see these days. And it all builds towards a chillingly downbeat finale.

But there are serious flaws. One is the non-linear storytelling. It's a bold move and is undeniably novel within the serial killer horror sub-genre, but it only serves here to rob the otherwise straightforward plot of tension. The slack editing further hinders any hopes of suspense by dragging out scenes (especially that flashback raid scene) and bringing the pace to a standstill.

The attention to detail, while admirable, does however also slow things down at times. The long drive to Seed's house offers insight into the cops in their cars, dreading what they're going to find there. But it just goes on and on, to the point that it dissipates any sense of expectancy. And for a film that strives for realism in some scenes, what's with the chain-smoking electric chair operator? Or Seed being allowed to continue to wear his mask in his prison cell? Silly, silly.

Pare is a very watchable lead, however - as with all other cast members - he's only impressive until he opens his mouth. Part of the problem here is clearly in the stilted, overly earnest script. There's no irony, no humour here - this is misanthropic filmmaking at it's most overwrought.

But as hardcore horror films go, those films so grim in tone and violent in content that only a select forgiving few can appreciate, SEED is one of the better this decade has thus far spawned. Pitting it slightly above the likes of AUGUST UNDERGROUND, MURDER-SET-PIECES and CHAOS may be dubious praise indeed, but there you have it: a compliment of sorts.

The film is of course going to attract controversy due to its opening scenes of actual animal cruelty (the film here opens with a disclaimer attempting to put these scenes into context, and offering a link to the PETA website - where the footage was loaned from). It is undeniably sickening, but thankfully brief. Whether or not its use can be justified is a political debate I'm not prepared to entertain here, but it does unquestionably make you fear what lengths Boll is prepared to go to.

In large, Boll keeps his horror more about the serious and ugly tone of the film. There are death scenes, but while they're quite gory they are for the most part quite quick. But then there's a showstopping set-piece hammer death - a full five minutes of facial deconstruction - that ranks alongside IRREVERSIBLE's fire extinguisher scene as the most excessive death scene to earn the blessing of the BBFC uncut.

For SEED is indeed presented on UK DVD fully uncut and uncensored.

The anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation is great. Images are sharp and contrast is well rendered, allowing for a range of various shades of black in a predominantly dark film. The deliberately muted colour schemes are well served and detail is solid throughout.

English audio is available in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both provide solid and consistent playback.

An animated main menu gives way to a static scene-selection menu allowing access to SEED via 12 chapters.

The only extras on the disc are a 10-minute Behind The Scenes featurette (lots of on-set footage with the occasional aside from cast and crew members) and a 90-second trailer that never skimps on the violence and dark ambience of the film. It's perhaps worth noting that the US (Region 1 encoded) disc has these features, along with a commentary track, deleted scenes, the brilliant short film CRITICIZED (a Dead By Dawn favourite) and a second disc with a PC game on it (!).

The UK disc opens with trailers for BLOODRAYNE 2, NO MAN'S LAND and ASSEMBLY.

SEED is uneven and episodic. It never truly gets going and at times it just seems to peter out completely. But it's bleak, grim, nasty stuff - it's a horror film through-and-through, devoid of humour and heavy on aggressive shock tactics. More interestingly, it does display evidence that Uwe Boll has progressed as a filmmaker and threatens that he may one day be capable of producing a very good horror flick. But SEED, despite its strengths, is not it.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Metrodome Group
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review