Saturday, September 03, 2022

The Bad Seed Returns, on Lifetime

Mervyn LeRoy's The Bad Seed was like the “A24 Elevated Horror” of 1956. Based on Maxwell Anderson’s stage adaptation of William March’s novel, LeRoy’s Oscar-nominated film has inspired thousands of knock-offs, but it never spawned a proper series—only a pair of made-for-TV remakes. However, Lifetime finally takes a stab at franchising the killer moppet with a sequel to its 2015 original movie. Emma Grossman has grown into a seemingly healthy teenager, but she is still a stone-cold psychopath in The Bad Seed Returns, directed by Louise Archambault, which premieres Monday on the network.

Grossman is obviously a high-functioning sociopath, because she has managed to ingratiate herself with the cliquey girls of her high school dance team. You wouldn’t want to run against her for team captain though. Accidents still seem to befall people who stand in her way.

Fortunately, Grossman still seems to like have her Aunt Angela around, but she is not so crazy about her Uncle Robert and their infant son. Having posed as the victim of a crazy father in the prior film, Grossman has milked the resulting sympathy for all its worth. She still has Dr. March (played by the Patty McCormack, the original “Bad Seed” in the 1956 classic) snowed in their video sessions (or she just summons her as a mental sounding board). However, Kat Sandberg is not fooled by her. Grossman doesn’t recognize her initially, but they used to go to the same school—back when all those bad things happened.

Bad Seed sequel is not a classic by any stretch, but it is still probably one of Lifetime’s better originals of recent vintage. Archambault, who has several festival-selected films to her credit, creates some competent cat-and-mouse tension, while the script (co-written by lead thesp Mckenna Grace, Ross Burge and Barbara Marshall) rather subversively inserts the “Bad Seed” into a 9120-ish setting. The chaos that results is certainly diverting. It also helps that neither of her foster parents are completely stupid, since they both start to suspect something while substantial time is left in the film.

Frankly, it is rather entertaining to watch Grace’s evil, smirky machinations. Ella Dixon makes a worthy adversary as the rebellious Sandberg. The rest of the kids are idiots, but what can you expect? Benjamin Ayres and Michelle Morgan also have some interesting moments as her beloved aunt and uncle. Fans of the previous film might enjoy seeing Lorne Cardinal turn up again briefly, but no Rob Lowe. Despite frequent references to her late father (whom he played), the flashback footage is careful designed so that his face is never seen.

It really seems like
The Bad Seed should have had either a prestigious reboot by now or a raft of straight-to-DVD sequels in the late 1990s. In terms of violence, The Bad Seed Returns falls somewhere between those two prospects, which is its problem. Indeed, the violence, exploitation, style, and tone are all just too in-between. Nevertheless, the production is professional grade and Grace is pretty chilling. Okay for rabid fans of killer kiddo movies (like maybe Bill Maher?), The Bad Seed Returns premieres Monday night (9/5) on Lifetime.