The Bad Seed (1956) – By Charles Rector

 Whenever people think of 1950’s horror films, they often come up with such things as patently unconvincing monsters. "Schlock" is one word that often comes to most folks’ minds as to what they think of 1950’s horror flicks in general. This may be the reason why the 1956 horror movie The Bad Seed has never gotten its due with fans of cinematic horror.

During the last two decades or so, there have been many horror movies about killer kids. Likewise, there have been many cases of such killer children in real life. Many of the best movies of this ilk have been based on these real life cases. None of the recent movies of this kind really measure up to The Bad Seed in terms of overall quality. There are two reasons why this is the case: (A) The Bad Seed is in black and white that seems to help with the spookiness of the overall flick and (B) the antagonist seems to be what Oliver Stone would have called a "natural born killer" even though we never see committing even so much as a single crime.

The antagonistic main character is the 8 year old Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) is a child from a wealthy and privileged background. Her family is considered "good" in practically every respect. She seems to have the perfect background. However, she also has a strange smile and can cast a menacing glare from piercing eyes. Little Rhoda also has a penchant for committing heinous deeds. When her complacent mother, Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly), learns of these acts, then mommy’s perfect world goes up in smoke.

The Bad Seed is a horror film that packs a real wallop. One reason why it is not well remembered today is the fact that it has a ridiculously artificial happy ending. This ending did not connect well to the rest of the movie and it robbed The Bad Seed of much of its impact. This ending is easily one of the worst endings to a horror motion picture of all time. However, that should not dampen your appreciation of this groundbreaking horror production too much.

Despite its low standing among horror flick fans today, The Bad Seed ihas been a most influential motion picture. Literally scores of evil children movies have been made since. The Omen with Gregory Peck is one such film along with lesser productions such as the various and sundry high school massacre flicks. There have also been some rip offs made with The Good Son being the most notable. However, these later productions generally lack that what made The Bad Seed such an interesting show. Namely that there are no outside supernatural influences acting upon the little girl that made her kill. Instead, her killer kid tendencies came from within her, her very own inner evil.