The Prodigy follows an 8-year old boy (Jackson Robert Scott) who possesses a unique intellect for his age. As his mind progresses, but his social skills seem to regress and become aggressive, his mother (Taylor Schilling) and father become increasingly concerned about his health. After a series of tests and analyses, they fear there may be something supernaturally sinister at work in their child.
The Prodigy Review
Little kids and horror is a staple. From The Omen and Children of the Corn, to Come Out and Play, there is something that can be truly unsettling about sadistic personas trapped inside seemingly innocent bodies. And to that effect, The Prodigy succeeds. The child actor struggles at times to retain that sinister facade throughout, clearly taking heavy influence from the director to give anything resembling intimidation.
Speaking of the director, I have to say that this was by far my least favorite film by Nicholas McCarthy. That's not saying much by that context alone, as The Pact and At the Devil's Door are two films I hold in very high esteem. I don't think the plot offered much space to work with in originality, and it showed in McCarthy's execution. This isn't the first time an indie darling has fallen flat on the big stage, seemingly too afraid to break the mainstream mold and stick with the unique eye that initially gave them the opportunity. I'd lump Corin Hardy and his sharp drop from The Hallow to The Nun into that category as well. The Pact is the go-to film for a lot of horror fans that are looking to sneak in a diamond in the rough into a horror film conversation, so much so that it's hard to consider it that anymore. The Prodigy will not be one of those films.
The Prodigy doesn't break far enough away from mainstream horror methodology and its homage to The Omen to produce a truly unique and entertaining experience. The grimaces and smirks from the child don't instill a sense of dread as often as they do a "what a scary face...we'll just put that right up on the fridge!" reaction. One particular series of moments midway through the film did a great job of developing a tense and foreboding atmosphere reminiscent of McCarthy's earlier works, but it soon fades back to mainstream redundancy.
The "twist" feels lackluster to the point that I hardly consider it a twist at all. It's just...where things were heading. A twist is a sudden change in direction of expectation. Adding a tweak to the possession genre isn't a twist, any more than Insidious or The Possession are twists. There's a big difference between original plot developments and twists. I was waiting for a brilliant sharp turn in the vein of Frailty, yet slowly but surely those dreams are frayed to nothingness with the inevitable progression of the predictable story. It really doesn't try to set anything up, no matter how badly I wish it had.
In many ways, I felt like this movie was a rev-up film for the true gem coming later this year in Brightburn. In much the same way that Upgrade felt like a spiritual sister to Venom. But unlike Upgrade, which proved to be a more well-rounded production than its later-released step-kin, I can assume with great confidence that Brightburn will outshine The Prodigy.