Sommerleigh Pollonais – Horror Head Writer
In 1956 horror The Bad Seed, a housewife suspects that her seemingly perfect eight-year-old daughter is a heartless killer.
One of the downsides of watching older films is you tend to think of them as cliched. “I’ve seen this done before,” you say to yourself (because we both know you’re cray-cray in a good way). But as I’ve mentioned before I always do my best to put myself in the shoes of the viewing audiences back then. And after watching The Bad Seed, I can only imagine how many parents went home and spanked the hides off their kids, hoping they didn’t turn into this little monster.
The Bad Seed is the granddaddy (or in this case, grandmammy) of “the evil child” movies. Little Rhoda seems like a parents’ dream. She’s neat to a fault, overly polite, and always on her best behavior. That is, until she sees something she wants and can’t have. Then Rhoda goes into full-on serial killer mode (she kills someone with her tap shoes yo!). Patty McCormack’s debut as an eight-year-old sociopath is played to perfection, and you can easily see why the adults around her would think she’s the perfect child.
All of the actors involved did good work here, the reason probably being they were all involved in the stage adaptation of the eponymous novel the movie is based on. There is a downside to this though, as you can tell the movie chose to model itself after the play, with most of the scenes taking place in one main location – the apartment Rhoda and her mother Christine live in. There’s also a lot of monologues and actors staring into the camera instead of looking at the person they’re talking to, just the way they would if they were on stage.
None of that really bothered me though, as I found the story of this evil child and her poor mother to be very engaging. The themes of Nurture vs Nature play a big role as well, which is understandable and would’ve been quite new to audiences back then. Remember what I said about cliches? Keep in mind, this movie did it all first, and probably laid the groundwork for all future genre movies with a similar premise. Hell, the film even has a sort of end credits scene, with the cast coming out to bow (the stage influence showing again) and a moment between the actress who played Christine (Nancy Kelly) and Patty McCormack’s Rhoda played for laughs, and a title card asking viewers not to spoil the twist ending! The Bad Seed did it all first folks!
From my research I found out the story’s ending is quite different from the book in that it’s a satisfyingly happy one. The novel was much bleaker, and honestly the scenes that build towards the final act definitely feel like they are going in a dark direction. Instead, what we got felt implausible and I get the strong feeling the studio refused to have an ending where evil wins.
I recommend watching this one, if just to see where it all started. Films like The Good Son, Mickey and Orphan and even Home Alone, have all borrowed from this classic and the fact they remade this not once (1985 television movie) but twice (2018, again made for the tele) gives you a good indication of the impact this little psycho in pigtails left on the genre of horror.
Sommer Score: 7.5 out of 10
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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