Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Review of “The Bad Seed”
By: Brian Cotnoir
The 1956 classic horror movie “The Bad Seed” tells the story of a young girl named Rhoda Penmark and her mother. Rhoda is a young girl who, on the outside, appears to be the perfect child’ she is well-mannered, courteous, well-spoken and mature for a girl her age, but her mother fears that she may be evil on the inside. Rhoda’s mother first becomes concerned that something may be wrong with her daughter when she appears to be excited that one of her classmates has died, and now Mrs. Penmark must figure out whether her daughter is the perfect little angel most people view her as or if she is, indeed, a bad seed.
I’ll start off by saying that “The Bad Seed” is a timeless horror classic and I also believe it was one of the first horror movies to have a child as the villain, rather than an adult or a paranormal anomaly, but I did find some big problems with the film.
My first problem with the film is a the dialogue; the dialogue for this film reminded me more of the kind of dialogue you’d see in a stage play instead of a movie, which makes sense because before “the Bad Seed” was made into a screen play it was a successful stage play and before that it was a novel, but I just feel like the dialogue was too weak for the film. The scenes were always crowded (very rarely did you see only one person in a shot) and every time one of the characters would go into a monologue it was really more to give themselves expositional background story; “EXPOSITION/EXPOSITION/RUSH IT OUT A.S.A.P.” (Sorry I couldn’t resist). Also a lot of the dialogue in the film was really dragged out; this film probably could have been a half hour shorter than it’s present running time.
The one thing that I hated about this film was Rhoda’s mother, but I do want to clarify I thought the actress playing Rhoda’s mother, Nancy Kelley, was great, I just hated the character she was playing. Mrs. Penmark is without a doubt the weakest, whiniest, and most moronic heroine I’ve ever seen in a film. She is a person who lives a life of denial and let’s her daughter do as she please with blind ignorance. Rhoda’s mother is hardly suspicious of her daughter’s morbid remarks and behavior, and I believe she only raises her voice one in the entire movie. If I ever met a woman like this in real life I think I would pay one of my female friends to hit her for me.
Then there’s the films antagonist, Rhoda, who is played by Patty McCormack. I think McCormack was just wonderful as the young sociopath Rhoda. She is a person who it motivated to get whatever she wants and if doesn’t get it she will kill you. Driven and manipulative are the words I’d used to describe her. Watching this film made me realize that Rhoda and her mother were more than likely the inspiration for Eric Cartman and his mother from the television series “South Park”. Rhoda and Cartman share many similarities; they’re controlling, demanding, manipulative, and go absolutely insane when they don’t get what they want, and their mothers are both passive and always making up excuses for their child’s behavior.
“The Bad Seed” is not very scary by today’s standards, but still it is a horror classic. I didn’t really think it was great, but it’s certainly not bad, and I also believe that this story is probably adapted way better on the stage then it is on screen. I also found most the supporting cast to be wonderful and very enjoyable, and can I just say the film had one of the best twist ending I’ve ever seen; it really made watching this film worth the 2 hours of boring drawn out dialogue.