A mother begins to suspect the worst about her daughter
when one of her classmates mysteriously drowns.
The Bad Seed (1956)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Written by John Lee Mahin
Starring Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Evelyn Varden,
Eileen Heckart, Henry Jones, William Hopper, Jesse White
Based on the novel by William March and
the stage play by Maxwell Anderson
Oscar Nominations - Best Actress (Nancy Kelly), Best Supporting Actress (Patty McCormack), Best Supporting Actress
(Eileen Heckart), Best Cinematography
The Bad Seed is the darkest mid-Code horror movie I've ever seen. Granted, that's super tame by today's standards, but in 1956, this was extremely controversial. This is a movie about a psychopathic child who kills anyone who even slightly inconveniences her, then lies her way out of trouble. She's eight years old, and by the end of the film, she has a body count of three. For the life of me, I can't figure out how this film was allowed to be made at a time when all films coming out of Hollywood were heavily scrutinized and scrubbed of as much violence, sex, and controversy that the Hollywood Production Code could find. Yet, here it stands, still dark and unpredictable. What a trailblazer.
Meet Rhoda Penmark (McCormack). She's a seemingly sweet, seemingly innocent eight-year-old child with two loving parents and a doting aunt. One day, one of Rhoda's classmates is found dead in the park. He apparently drowned, but was severely beaten first. Rhoda isn't all that sad, mostly because that boy won an award that Rhoda believed she should've won. When Rhoda's mother finds that award hidden in her daughter's room, she confronts Rhoda, who confesses that she drowned the boy, but not before torturing him first. Now, Christine (Kelly) is horribly conflicted. She loves her daughter, but her daughter is a cold-blooded murderer. Christine's solution is horrifying, so much so that I won't spoil it here, even though this film came out over sixty years ago. It's so ahead of its time though, and definitely paved the way for films like The Good Son, The Omen, Village of the Damned, and so many other films featuring killer kids.
The Bad Seed is a must-see for horror buffs, especially those looking for the foundations of horror tropes we see all the time these days. Back in 1956, this was something no audience had ever seen before, and it made quite the splash. I say it still holds up and is worth a watch.