The Halloween season is here and in the run up to the big day I decided to
examine what is considered “scary” in the world of horror movies.

Going with Rotten Tomatoes list of the 31 scariest movies, I decided to
compare each film with another horror film from the same year to determine which one I found scarier.

For this showdown, Rotten Tomatoes chose Invasion of the
Body Snatchers and I decided to pit it against the psychological thriller The
Bad Seed

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

In Santa Mira, California, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is baffled when all his patients come to him with the same complaint: their loved ones seem to have been replaced by emotionless impostors. Despite others’ dismissive denials, Dr. Bennell, his former girlfriend Becky (Dana Wynter) and his friend Jack (King Donovan) soon discover that the patients’ suspicions are true: an alien species of human duplicates, grown from plant-like pods, is taking over the small town.

A masterful performance by Kevin McCarthy leads this tale of paranoia and pod people. A concept so enduring that Hollywood has remade this story multiple times through the years.

Pros

Kevin McCarthy makes a wonderful transition from stoic hero to fearful paranoid through a solid performance.

The concept is executed perfectly and scary on its own.

The paranoia and fear are well done. Especially when Miles and Becky attempt to leave the town. 

The effects are great for the time period.

The fact that little to no explanation was given about the pods, where they came from or even what the aliens wanted was refreshingly scary.

Cons

There really isn’t much to differentiate the “pod people”. Everyone says they’ve changed, but there’s never any indication of how. 

Perfect genetic clones that erupt from what look like giant bean pods is just naturally funny. 

The Bad Seed

Air Force Colonel Kenneth Penmark (William Hopper) and his wife, Christine (Nancy Kelly), dote on their pig-tailed daughter, Rhoda (Patty McCormack) — as does their lonely landlady, Monica Breedlove (Evelyn Varden). But self-centered Rhoda has a secret tendency for selfishness and loves to accumulate gifts, whether given or stolen, in her room. Christine keeps her knowledge of her daughter’s darker side to herself, but when a schoolmate of Rhoda’s dies mysteriously, her self-deception unravels.

Adapted from the Broadway play of the same name and based on a famous novel, The Bad Seed serves as the template for every evil kid depiction on screen. Even the title has entered the lexicon as a descriptor for evil kids. 

Pros

Great performances by Patty McCormack as Rhoda and Nancy Kelly as Christine.

The subtlety of the plot is entertaining.

Eileen Heckart is brilliant as the mother of one of Rhoda’s victims. SHe commands every scene she is in and is brilliantly unpredictable. 

Cons

You can tell this was a play because the dialogue reflects it as each scene begins and ends like one. 

You never see Rhoda do anything. You see her benefit from her actions and the suspicion from her mother, but she doesn’t direct any of the events. 

The ending is laughably ridiculous and absolutely tacked on by the studio to conform to the Hays Code. 

Both films are definite classics in the realm of thrillers, but only one could be considered scary. I’m going to agree with Rotten Tomatoes on this one and declare the winner is……

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Which film do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below. 

2 Comments

  • nscovell

    October 15, 2020 - 3:03 pm

    I prefer Body Snatchers. But I prefer the remakes over the original.

  • Deron Generally

    October 15, 2020 - 3:18 pm

    I like the remakes, but there is something pure about the original. I think the remakes overplayed the paranoia a little too much and made the protagonists too timid.

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