Bad Ronald

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Bad Ronald
1974 | 74 minutes
Starring Scott Jacoby, Pippa Scott, John Larch, Dabney Coleman, Kim Hunter
Directed by Buzz Kulik

Returning home from being rejected at a schoolmate’s pool party, social pariah Ronald (Scott Jacoby) vents his frustration on a taunting young girl, accidentally killing her. Rather than having her son turn himself into the police, Ronald’s controlling mother (Kim Hunter) quickly devises an ingenious solution: Why not wall up the downstairs bathroom and have Ronald continue to live secretly at home, safely hidden in his cubby?

All goes well—with Ronald studying and exercising in his tiny new home, sharing meals with his mother through the crawlspace entry in the pantry–until she checks into the hospital for a routine operation. Ronald discovers the news of her death when he overhears a realtor discussing the potential sale of the house. When a new couple (Dabney Coleman, Kim Hunter) and their daughters move in, Ronald slips more and more into a self-created fantasy realm, while continuing to live in his secret hideaway and watching the new family’s activities through various peepholes drilled in the walls.

Although more sympathetic than the moniker would suggest, Bad Ronald delivers a grubby sort of creepiness, more unsettling than terrifying. A picked-on outcast guilty of manslaughter rather than a cold-blooded murderer, Ronald mostly plays a passive role, particularly in the subsequent death of his nosy neighbor. He only takes action against those he spies upon when his isolation-driven fantasy world bleeds into his reality. Until then, Ronald exists as a corporeal phantom, tapping into the queasiness of breached privacy and violated personal space.

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