Bad Ronald

Dir: Buzz Kulik, 1974. Starring: Scott Jacoby, Kim Hunter. Cult.
Bad Ronald
Ronald (Scott Jacoby) is a good boy; he's the most caring and dutiful son a mother could ask for. His mother Elaine (Kim Hunter) is divorced and takes pride in the fact that she dismissed alimony in exchange for the sole custody of her son. She has complications with her gallbladder, and Ronald is quick to come to her side when she's cringing in pain. He's now a senior in high school, and his mother has hopes of him one day becoming a doctor. For his birthday she gives him a tool box and art supplies, the latter he's thrilled about because he wants to illustrate the characters from the stories he likes to write. On the night of his birthday he dresses smart and decides to go ask a girl from school out on a date. His overbearing mother tells him to heed her warnings about the self-centered girl that he's infatuated with before letting him go on his way. He goes to her house and finds her swimming with the kids who bully him at school. He's obviously rejected by the girl and leaves shortly after. While running home he accidentally knocks a little girl off her bike. The girl begins shouting at him and taunting, eventually making claims about Ronald and his mother's weirdness. He demands an apology from her, and when it doesn't surface he shoves the girl to the ground and she dies in a freak accident.

When he comes home hours later with soil on his now-ruined jacked, his mother asks him what's wrong. He confesses that he killed the neighbor girl in an accident and then buried her body in panic. His mother won't hear of him going to jail, so the two work hard through the night creating a secret passage in their Victorian home with the intention of hiding him there until the heat dies down. While inside, Ronald exercises, studies and illustrates his story about a mystical land on the walls. The story has a prince, who finds a princess to fall in love with him, and an evil duke who tries to destroy their happiness.

The police eventually come knocking and Ronald's mother deceives them, saying that he hasn't been seen since his birthday. They search the house and find his soiled jacket, stained with spots of blood, and a letter to his mother that says he did something terrible and ran away. The police see it as a shabby confession and leave the woman alone, believing that she doesn't know where her son has run off to. Once they leave, Ronald and his mother wait several months for things to die down. Under no circumstances is he allowed to leave the lair; their nosy neighbor is watching the house like a hawk waiting to squeal when and if Ronald “returns.” They hope that when the case is eventually dropped, they'll be able to move away. But Elaine's gallbladder eventually needs to be operated on, and she informs Ronald that she'll be away from him for a week. She fills his hideaway with canned goods and tells him not to leave it until she returns from the operation. She dies from complications and Ronald does as he's told and doesn't leave the false room.

Within a few months the house goes up for sale and a family with three pretty daughters is excited about moving in. But before they sign anything, Ronald has used his tools to drill peep holes in every room and an escape route for himself. Once the family moves in he becomes obsessed with their youngest daughter Babs. The oldest girl starts dating the brother of the little girl he killed, which aggravates Ronald because he bullied him long before the accident.

Ronald eventually goes stir crazy and starts to make a correlation with his fantasy world and the real world. He starts referring to himself as the prince from his story and little Babs as the princess who falls in love with him. The evil duke becomes the boy dating the eldest. When the girls' parents take a short vacation, he uses the opportunity to turn his fantasy into a reality. He leaves his hiding space with the intention of bringing his “princess” to his “mystical land” and ridding the world of the “evil duke.”

The movie was originally marketed as a horror film, even though it clearly plays like a psychological thriller. While it’s a tad campy, it’s not nearly as violent or unsettling as I expected, and the acting was on par with a '70s drama for the most part. I actually felt sorry for Ronald and saw his eccentric mother as partly to blame for his aloofness. The movie is an adaptation from a novel by John Holbrook Vance, and I'd really like to read it because the movie was interesting and the book probably explains the strange relationship between Ronald and his mother better. There's a little bit of comedy, a little violence and some sentiment, which all make for a good cult classic. And that's just what Bad Ronald is, therefore, you'll only be setting yourself up for disappointment if you're expecting a horror film.


Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Aug 8, 2011 12:35pm
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