February 7, 2019 The Prodigy (Movie Review)
We have all seen films in which an evil kid wreaks havoc on unsuspecting victims. This trope has been popular in Horror for decades, and now The Prodigy, directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact 2012, At The Devil’s Door 2014), arrives in theaters Friday, February 8th through Orion Pictures to add a surprising new twist to this subgenre. What is billed as your typical possessed child flick actually morphs into a tense, intriguing tale bolstered by outstanding performances from Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black series, Argo 2012) and Jackson Robert Scott (It 2017).
Sarah (Schilling) and her husband John (Peter Mooney: Rookie Blue series) tried to start a family for years. When they finally welcome their first son, Miles, into their lives, the young couple is thrilled to find that Miles blows past developmental milestones. The young genius is sent to special schools and beloved by his parents until Miles begins to exhibit disturbing character traits like attempting to lure his babysitter into a basement in order to maim her, beating a classmate when Miles does not get his way, or speaking Hungarian in his sleep. You know, typical kid stuff.
When Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore: House of Cards series, Chicago series) explains to Sarah that rather than having your run-of-the-mill developmental issues, Miles’ may actually be experiencing something more sinister and supernatural. The film’s initial tagline question (“What’s wrong with Miles?”) is answered early on, that does not necessarily stop the scares from hitting home. The scene from the film’s initial—now infamous—trailer is enough to make even the most hardened Horror fan fly out of a seat. With drawn out sequences backed by Jospeh Bishara’s minimalist, eerie score, Miles’ rapid takeover turns up the scare factor. The graphic violence is a bit gratuitous at times, but smart cinematography choices make most of the film’s goriest moments feel like necessary parts of the story.
However, the mystery of Miles’ unwanted inhabitant is revealed within the film’s first few scenes. The audience knows almost immediately what exactly is wrong with Miles, and it is no surprise to discover that no matter what Sarah’s desperate plans may be to save her son, there is little hope to be found in her situation. Even so, the tension in every scene is palpable thanks to Scott, who manages to flip between an innocent eight-year-old boy and a seasoned murderer with incredible ease. It is difficult to imagine many adult actors being able to achieve the duplicity that Scott does. He nails the creepy staring, dialogue delivery, and intense violence of a killer while at the same time balancing that with your typical eight-year-old boy. If nothing else, go see The Prodigy just for this incredible young actor.
Schilling’s performance impresses, as well. As a new mother grappling with the changes that come along with normal parenthood, fighting to keep her marriage feeling normal, and then placed in an impossible situation while she unravels the mystery of what is actually wrong with her son, Schilling embodies the role.
Unfortunately, the films peaks a little early. Any subtlety is tossed out the window as the plot comes to an ultra-violent conclusion, but Schilling and Scott still manage to carry the brunt of the ending’s rushed storytelling. The Prodigy’s bleak ending clearly sets up the possibility for a sequel by leaving a ton of loose ends just waiting to be tied up in further installments. This feels a little cheap and unsatisfying, but fits the film’s overall hopeless tone.
Channeling classic Horror films like 1976’s The Omen, 2009’s The Orphan, and even 1973’s The Exorcist, The Prodigy is a solid addition to this sub-genre that adds an interesting new twist to the killer kid/bad seed trope thanks to Scott’s monumental performance. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Prodigy 4 out of 5 stars.