Lensed in Canada, this horror flick will irritate suspense junkies with its introduction of a disappointing last-minute plot twist. In addition, the movie never puts forth a convincing enough case to suspect that its young lead character is actually the Bad Seed he's supposed to be.
When murders start occurring at the Pratman household, suspicion falls slowly on young autistic Adam (Matthew Dupuis). Hard-pressed to accept their son's disability, his parents Peter (Martin Neufeld) and Linda (Darlanne Fleugel) discourage their son's craving for TV crime shows and are upset when
their little darling is present at the accidental shooting of Manny (Michael Caloz), a neighborhood bully. Although a new tutor calling himself Clive (Bruce Dinsmore) makes some progress, major calamities keep befalling the family: Linda's invalid father Earl (M. Emmet Walsh) is killed when his
oxygen supply is turned off, and the family's housekeeper Margaret (Linda Sorenson) is killed in a head-on collision with a dumbwaiter.
Meanwhile, Linda's gnawing anxiety about the possiblility of a baby-switch leads her to the padded cell of institutionalized psychotic Connie Anderson (Denise Crosby), who gave birth at the same time as Linda. After Connie attacks Linda, Linda becomes more convinced that she has been raising
Connie's psychopathic child. When nosy Detective Atwater (James Brolin) attempts interviewing Adam while the boy is home alone, Atwater ends up taking a tumble down the staircase followed by a fatal stabbing at the bottom of the steps.
Retrieving an envelope containing snapshots taken by his grandfather Earl, Adam proves his innocence to the still-doubtful Linda. Having slain and replaced Adam's real tutor, Clive reveals himself to be Connie's husband, who's been alive and well and living secretly in Linda's attic for years.
(The photos Adam found show Clive killing Adam's young tormentor, Manny). After Adam shoots Clive, now revealed to be his real father, he gets a fresh start with Peter, Linda, and new brother Henry, (Alan West) the Pratmans' real son who spent his early years as an orphan thanks to a switch
engineered by Clive.
The sweet-faced Dupuis gives such a beautifully controlled performance as the zoned-out problem child that it's a pity the film didn t do a better job of implicating him in the homicides. What emerges instead of a suspenseful reworking of THE BAD SEED is a warped tale about a mother trying to
escape responsibility for a damaged child that she suspects is a killer. An insult to autistic children, RELATIVE FEAR fails so completely to build a case against Adam that it becomes an hysterical child-rearing debate about heredity vs. environment. Further dissipating tension is the film's
gallery of deserving victims. How can we cower in terror at Adam's alleged actions when the deaths of drooling Gramps, short-tempered Margaret, nosy Atwater, and sadistic Manny all clearly make the world a better place?
The film's final revelation can only cause viewers to wonder about neurotic Linda's ability to raise either her birth child or poor little screwed-up Adam, the spawn of homicidal killers who seem to love the kid more than Linda does.(Graphic violence, adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: Lensed in Canada, this horror flick will irritate suspense junkies with its introduction of a disappointing last-minute plot twist. In addition, the movie never puts forth a convincing enough case to suspect that its young lead character is actually the Ba… (more)