Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Writer: Jeff Buhler
Stars: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Peter Mooney
Murderous children or those possessed by dark forces appear in horror movies on a regularly base. Sometimes it’s a diabolical power that possesses them. Damien from “The Omen” and Regan in “The Exorcist” are good examples. Or it’s the mental condition that turns lovely little boys into horrible little monsters like Luke in “Better watch out” and Chavs in “Eden Lake“. In “The Prodigy” Miles develops a deviant behavior pattern as he gets older. This cuddly little boy appears to have a dual personality. One moment he snuggles into his mother’s arms. The next moment he looks at her demonically. Such an evil look that gives you goosebumps instantly. Verily, there’s something wrong with these Miles (Jackson Robert Scott).
To be honest I was pleasantly surprised by “The Prodigy“. Admittedly, it’s not very original and the film makes good use of all known tricks from the horror genre. Yet this film managed to make me feel uncomfortable. And I even felt a slight form of tension. And that was mainly achieved by the acting of the young Jackson Robert Scott. A little guy who’s years ahead of other kids in terms of intelligence. But when his use of language during his sleep (in a Hungarian dialect) takes on a fairly mature tone and he tackles fellow students with a heavy wrench, a sense of suspicion begins to increase on his mother Sarah (Taylor Schilling). The result is an adult psychological game that unfolds between mother and son.
Jef Buhler (scriptwriter of, among others, “Pet Sematary“, “Jacob’s Ladder” and next year’s film “The Grudge“) takes his time here and slowly builds up the tension. Hence the slow pace at the start of the film. Which for once I didn’t experience as disturbing. It’s only when spiritualist Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore) is introduced that the pace goes up. Here it also becomes clear what the opening scene has to do with this sweet-looking youngster who’s troubled by behavioral problems. Fragments of a psychopath shot down by a special unit and the birth of Miles are being linked to each other. And then the term reincarnation comes up. An explanation that suddenly makes everything clearer. Unfortunately, the motivation why this all happens is easy to guess.
“The Prodigy” is an easily digestible and entertaining horror, despite the predictability and a not so ingeniously put together story. The acting work of Jackson Robert Scott and Taylor Schilling makes up for a lot. Expect some excitement, some jump scares and for some perhaps a surprising denouement. In recent years, a few films have been released with bombastic statements claiming to be the “Scariest horror in years” or “More frightening than The Exorcist“. “The Prodigy” surpasses them all. Without magniloquent slogans. Ergo, highly recommended.