When Rob Lowe was originally approached about his remake of “The Bad Seed,” he commented that his film version is a drama more than a horror movie. While the original 1956 movie starring Patty McCormack was a horror movie with a dramatic tinge, by God Rob Lowe makes sure that his version of “The Bad Seed” is a drama. Even the unraveling of a parent realizing their child is a psychopath with only the goal of self preservation is painfully bent for the sake of drama, and less horror. Lowe fails, especially because the realization that their child is a psychopath with zero emotion should be a living nightmare. Not some kind of twist in a melodrama.
Lowe updates “The Bad Seed” considerably and makes some baffling moves along the way, reversing the gender of the single parent in the tale. Lowe plays David, a single father who’s devoted his life to raising his daughter Emma. Emma is the seemingly perfect child, but when a young boy turns up dead at a local festival, Emma is suspect number one. Emma soon begins trying to throw the authorities off the scent, all the while enduring an equally menacing nanny. Meanwhile David slowly realizes that Emma might be a calculating psychopath, and wonders how far she’ll go to preserve her own well being.
“The Bad Seed” is a baffling, dull remake of a mostly great 1956 movie. And while many will likely peg it as an adaptation of the novel, Lowe takes a great deal from the original movie. He even pays tribute to it repeatedly, even casting Patty McCormick in a silly cameo as a therapist who makes an odd connection with Emma. Within “The Bad Seed” beats the heart of a really campy and menacing horror movie about the slow unraveling of a parent who comes to terms with the fact that their only child is maniac. But Lowe’s insistence on keeping the tone fairly bland, and the tension to a minimum, kills any such potential. Instead the movie meanders back and forth looking for an identity.
David comes off more as bumbling than a simple man deluding himself, and the replacement of the rivalrous groundskeeper with a sexy nanny who is on to Emma from square one, seems cheap and pointless. Lowe seems to hint that perhaps he’s changing the tale by giving Emma something of a culprit, but he goes for predictable time and time again. I’m also not sure at all why Lowe felt it was a good idea editing in the major scenes of the movie in to the opening prologue, effectively spoiling the whole movie for us. It felt a lot like he was trying to undermine any and all traces of the horror element. All the while elements like nightmares of Emma’s victims haunting David feel forced by the network as a means of jolting audiences from their comas.
The only element worth speaking about is McKenna Grace whose portrayal of Emma is unnerving and often times spooky. She’s the ultimate petulant child who seems almost like a force of evil stuck in a human body and struggles to understand emotions for the sake of hiding among normal people. The scene of her practicing “A Basket of Kisses!” in front of a mirror is probably the best moment in the entire film. As for “The Bad Seed,” if you’re still conscious by the time the credits roll, you’re probably much better off watching the original 1956 thriller, and chase it with “Orphan” and “The Good Son,” for good measure.