Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Bad Seed


Nature or nurture? That’s the center of this disturbing movie. Is human bad behavior determined by the environment in which a child is raised? Or is it the result of a “bad” gene? It is clear to me that the first notion is ridiculous. Take two brothers raised side by side in a terrible home and neighborhood. Abusive father, addict mother, killings on the streets, gangs threatening your life. The temptation to get out by dealing drugs is enormous. Yet one boy becomes a thief and murderer and the other wins the Nobel Prize for medicine. Growing up in a bad situation certainly doesn’t help anything, and growing up in a loving family with money certainly does help, but it’s not the final determinant. Likewise, it doesn’t account for the rich, well-raised boy who becomes a mass killer.

I do believe, however, that some people are actually born evil. This has nothing to do with bad genes, as is posited in this movie. I don’t think we really have a clue where these people come from. They simply don’t see other people as real, they have no empathy, and thus feel free to do whatever they can get away with. We call them sociopaths, and they can come from good backgrounds or bad. In this movie, little Rhoda is clearly a sociopath. She kills a classmate because he won the penmanship medal she felt she was entitled to. She is crafty, as these people tend to be, and can successfully pose as sweet and loving, somebody who actually gives a rat’s ass. She has most people convinced, except her teacher and, increasingly, her own mother.

The big revelation here is when her mother finds out she was adopted, and her mother was a killer. The gene skipped a generation. This is baloney. Really offensive baloney, in my opinion.

The script is from a novel, and certain changes were made. In the movie, the mother decides she must kill Rhoda and then herself. But she botches it. Rhoda survives … but so does she. It is clear that Rhoda is going to get her comeuppance when Mom tells of the girl’s confession to her, but just in case we didn’t understand that, we are given the most ridiculous, laugh-out-loud literal deus ex machina in all of cinema. She is struck by lightning! I’m not kidding, the fucking Hand of God reaches out to fry her!

In the book … Mom is successful in blowing her own head off, but botches the job drugging Rhoda. The little girl is free and clear, and certain to kill again. I much prefer this ending, but then I like dark stuff like that. The movie was re-made in 1985 with the original ending. Maybe I’ll see that some day.