It’s hard to argue with formula…especially when for the most part, it works.
While The Prodigy isn’t exactly reinventing the horror genre (or even the creepy kid subgenre) it’s a film that knows exactly the playbook that it is running and it executes it all well enough that even the occasionally clunky and hackneyed moment isn’t too hard to over look.
Sarah (Taylor Schilling) is a mother whose young son Miles’ disturbing behavior signals that an evil, possibly supernatural force has overtaken him. Fearing for her family’s safety, Sarah must grapple with her maternal instinct to love and protect Miles in favor of investigating what – or who – is causing his dark turn. She is forced to look for answers in the past, taking the audience on a wild ride; one where the line between perception and reality remains blurry.
To say that The Prodigy doesn’t have a ton of originality to it would probably be a gross understatement, but the material knows what buttons to hit and with some quality direction it manages to rise above your standard horror fare and create some genuine moments that will seep into your skin.
Director Nicolas McCarthy has a quiet but ultimately decent track record of working in the horror genre and here with The Prodigy he knows exactly the kind of movie he’s making. With an exceptional use of longer takes, shadow and light all blended together with an effective musical score by Joseph Bishara, McCarthy does an effortless job at crafting mood, which is so important in a film like this. So many elements in this story could have easily gone sideways had things been over engineered, this narrative really needed to keep it all as simple as humanly possible, which is why it works, with some simple yet effective scary beats.
The script from Jeff Buhler is effective in some parts, but telegraphs plot points and introduces some story devices in pretty clumsy ways. He’s almost following the ‘creepy kid’ screenplay handbook a little too closely at times but he adds just enough oomph to the overall narrative that the quality moments in the story more than overshadow the bits that we see coming from 100 miles away. There’s nothing really bad going on, but it’s very ‘Horror 101’ and makes you want to appreciate the ride more than getting to the final destination of the story.
Taylor Schilling is fine as the ‘mother in distress’ trying to fix her son role and manages to run that gamut between terrified and incredulous when needed as all this crazy shit is happening to her son. It’s not the strongest of written parts but she does make it her own and believable when it all counts. Jackson Robert Scott who’d you recognize as Georgie from IT was actually pretty terrifying when he needed to be and had the sociopath glare down to a tee. He’s got the right amount of on screen poise that he just might be able to make a run at this acting thing when he gets a little older. The indomitable Colm Feore rounds it all out as Arthur Jacobson as the pseudo expert on past life possession and really adds an air of creditability to it all even when he’s selling some pretty over the top ideas about Miles…which of course turn out to be true.
Ultimately The Prodigy is a fun little diversion in the horror genre which does JUST enough right to make for an enjoyable, but admittedly predictable experience.