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‘The Bad Seed’ Remake: 7 Homages to the Classic Psychological Thriller

Lifetime’s update celebrated the original Mervyn LeRoy film in a few sneaky ways.

"The Bad Seed" (1956) and (2018)

Patty McCormack, The Bad Seed” (1956); and Mckenna Grace, “The Bad Seed” (2018)

Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock, Lifetime

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Lifetime’s remake of “The Bad Seed.” For a non-spoilers take, check out IndieWire’s review.]

In 1956, “The Bad Seed” set the standard for cute kids gone bad on the big screen, tapping into the fear that maybe sweet little Jenny isn’t so innocent after all — that evil is born, not made. It was the antidote to the Patty Dukes and Shirley Temples that had dotted the media, and paved the way for future movies of its kind like “The Good Son” and “Orphan.”

Lifetime’s remake of Mervyn LeRoy’s classic follows the general structure of the original film but gender-flips the single parent, casting Rob Lowe as dad David Grossman, who begins to have uneasy suspicions about his perfect little girl Emma (Mckenna Grace) after an unforeseen tragedy occurs. The film also changes out the gardener/caretaker, who in the original film saw through the little girl’s facade, with a nanny named Chloe, who isn’t fooled by Emma either.

The endings diverged quite a bit though. In the latest “Bad Seed,” Emma gets away with her crimes when her father, who wants to prevent her from killing again by killing her, is shot by a neighbor. The 1956 film, however, had to abide by the Motion Picture Production Code that doesn’t allow “crime to pay.” Therefore, it was the mother who was saved from her distraught suicide attempt, and later, her daughter is killed by a bolt of lightning.

Despite these differences, the new version of “The Bad Seed” pays homage to its roots with a few sneaky nods that are just too specific to ignore and a couple outright homages. Check out all the Easter eggs below:

”Basket of Kisses!”

Parent: “What would you give me for a basket of hugs?”
Child: “A basket of kisses!”

This exchange was repeated in various ways in the original film between the titular daughter Rhoda (Patty McCormack) and her parents. One of the most heartbreaking moments though is when mom Christine (Nancy Kelly) is distraught after learning the murderous lengths that her daughter has gone to, but Rhoda is unfazed and just wants to continue their “basket of kisses” game as if nothing has happened.

In Lifetime’s remake, the exchange only happens once, but after Emma gives the expected “baskets of kisses” response, she continues repeating the phrase alone in front of the mirror to perfect that perfect, cheery delivery.

That Red Dress

Mckenna Grace and Rob Lowe, "The Bad Seed"

Emma’s bright red dress that she wears to Merit Day at school is no accident. It’s an homage to the dress that Rhoda wears to the picnic when she pushed Claude Dangle into the water after stealing his medal for penmanship. But since the original movie was in black-and-white, we only know that her dress is red because a couple of characters comment on its color.

Those Pigtails

The two tightly braided pigtails that Rhoda wears in the 1956 film became her trademark, but Emma wears her hair loose or in a half-ponytail for most of the Lifetime movie. She does sport her own set of french-braided pigtails — and even a pinafore-style dress — in one key scene though. See below.

The Return of Patty McCormack

McCormack received an Oscar nomination for playing the sprightly but evil Rhoda in the original film, and in the remake she plays Emma’s psychiatrist — who says, “Emma, I’m going to tell you a secret. I did the exact same things as you when I was your age.” To drive the point home further, she tells David, “I told her she reminds me of myself.”

Mckenna Grace and Patty McCormack, "The Bad Seed"

Mckenna Grace and Patty McCormack, “The Bad Seed”

Bettina Strauss/Lifetime

Paging Dr. March

McCormack’s cameo gives one more nod to “The Bad Seed’s” origins, but not the classic film. Instead, it pays tribute to author William March, who wrote the novel of the same in 1954, which was then adapted into a play that was the basis of the 1956 film. McCormack’s psychiatrist character in the remake is named “Dr. March.”

The Shoes Come Off

In the original film, Christine is in her daughter’s bedroom wanting Rhoda to give a straight answer about what happened at the picnic and some other disturbing incidents in the past. Rhoda tries to avoid the conversation and instead takes off her shoes and start banging their soles together to clean them.

In Lifetime’s remake, Emma is more subtle, but she is also sitting on her bed when David asks her about Merit Day and a fellow student’s death. She takes off one shoe before David stops her and makes her answer the question.

That Creepy Double-Handed Caress

Perhaps the most insidious hallmark lifted straight from the original film is how Rhoda strokes her mother’s face, especially when she’s trying to get away with literal murder. She uses both hands on each side of the face simultaneously and strokes up and down the cheeks using the sides of her hands one way, and then flipping her hands upside down to stroke the opposite way. It’s a unique gesture that Emma also uses to try and soothe her father right after he’s discovered that the babysitter has been killed in a fire.

Nancy Kelly in "The Bad Seed" (1956), and Rob Lowe in "The Bad Seed" (2018)

Nancy Kelly in “The Bad Seed” (1956), and Rob Lowe in “The Bad Seed” (2018)

Warner Bros., Lifetime

The new version of ”The Bad Seed” is available to watch on MyLifetime.com with a cable subscription, and the original is available to rent on Amazon Prime.

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