Movie Review: “The Prodigy”
When a young woman escapes her captor and contacts local law enforcement, a unit is dispatched which inevitably kills the serial killer. At the exact moment of the killer’s death, a happily married couple gives birth to a baby boy. While Miles seems like an ordinarily healthy baby boy, the new parents will soon learn that he has extraordinary intelligence. As the boy grows older, he begins displaying his extraordinary intelligence. He begins walking and talking much earlier than any child should, and (in the following years) he begins to require advanced education.
His parents have chalked it up to Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) being a genius, but when he begins doing things that they cannot explain, they reach out to a specialist at Miles’ school. They believe there is a dark supernatural presence within the boy. It is violent and it is smart. Refusing to give up on her son, Sarah (Taylor Schilling) tries to determine what the supernatural entity is, as well as what it wants. Unfortunately, her search for answers will not go unnoticed by the dangerous entity.
The Pros & Cons
Jackson Robert Scott (+8pts)
The Entity (+5pts)
Mother & Son (-4pts)
Taylor Schilling (+4pts)
Edward Scarka (-3pts)
Pro: Jackson Robert Scott (+8pts)
Historically, horror filmmakers have struggled with finding child actors that can pull off their roles. In recent years, filmmakers have done a much better job in finding talented young actors for their movies. With that in mind, Jackson Robert Scott did a really good job with this movie. I remember thinking he did a good job in It, but this movie provided a lot more to sink his teeth into (pun intended if you have seen It).
In this movie, he was essentially playing two characters in the same body and did a great job of transitioning between the two. Miles is an innocent little boy in some scenes, and is a creepy murderous psychopath in others. The young actor made the two characters feel believable, and both felt like very distinct characters. A lot of the movie’s success depended on his ability to play this character, and he did a really good job with it. His emotion felt forced in a couple of scenes but, for the most part, Jackson Robert Scott was both impressive and captivating in this role. He was easily the best part of this movie, and left me excited to see the young actor in more movies.
Con: John (-4pts)
John (Peter Mooney) was Miles’ father, and was easily one of the weakest aspects of the movie. In some scenes, the character was just gone and gave me the impression that he did not care about his son. In other scenes, the character went from despising the kid to instantly switching to crying and telling Miles that he loves him. You could say that John was just scared and really loved his son deep down, but that complexity was not conveyed to me. The character just felt emotionally inconsistent. I do not know if the fault lies with the actor for not making the character believable or the director for not guiding the actor properly. Either way, the character did not work for me.
Pro: The Entity (+5pts)
If you are reading this review, then chances are you have seen a horror movie about a possession. Taking it a step further, chances are you have seen a horror movie about the possession of a child. I am so confident in that, because it seems (at times) that those are the only horror movies that today’s filmmakers know how to make. Yes, this movie is about a supernatural entity taking over a child, but it is different. I do not want to say exactly how it is different in the event that you are trying to stay away from spoilers, but this movie has a bit of a different twist.
It is not a demon in this movie. Sure, the characters still consult a specialist that is the equivalent of the priest role in most demonic possession movies, but this movie goes in a different direction. The scene in which the boy goes up against the specialist is both messed up and hilarious. Yes, the movie is about a boy being taken over by a supernatural entity, but it is a different type of entity than we are used to. This provided some unique moments, and made the movie feel different (in a good way).
Con: Mother & Son (-4pts)
I liked the movie, but it ended up being more creepy than scary. Part of this was due to who the main character was in relation to Miles. The main character was Sarah (Miles’ mother) and, without giving anything away, both Miles and the entity benefited from having Sarah around. In other words, while Sarah was certainly freaked out, I never felt like she was in danger. Does she live through the events of the story? You will have to see the movie to find out, but I was never afraid for her life. This took a lot of potential fear out of the movie. The movie was absolutely creepy, but it rarely felt “scary”.
Pro: Taylor Schilling (+4pts)
As creepy as the boy was, most of the movie’s emotion came from Taylor Schilling’s reactions to whatever the boy was doing. This was not a performance that will stick with audiences after the movie is over, but it was effective at getting the audience to feel what Sarah was feeling. Unlike my issue with John, I understood Sarah’s love for her son, which made me understand her actions at the end of the movie. The character of John was proof that, had Taylor Schilling not been able to pull off her character, the entire end of the movie would not have been believable. Fortunately, Taylor Schilling gave an effective performance that made me care about the fate of Miles, which was crucial in making me care about the events of this story.
Con: Edward Scarka (-3pts)
Without giving anything away, the movie kind of spoiled itself. The movie started by showing the serial killer Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux). We (the audience) got to see what Edward wanted which, in turn, gave away a key reveal moment that came later in the movie. Again, we see all this in the very beginning of the movie, but then we have to pretend we do not know the answers to Sarah’s questions. It does not hurt the movie significantly, but I just thought that Sarah’s investigation and realization would have been much more impactful if we had not seen Edward Scarka’s scene in the beginning of the movie.
Grade: B- (81pts)
The Prodigy is a movie that looked like a typical horror movie on the surface, but ended up having more to it. It is typical in the sense that it is about a child being possessed by a supernatural entity, but it has a bit of a difference. I do not want to say exactly what that difference is to avoid spoilers, but it is certainly not your typical demonic possession (as the entity is not a demon). This opens up the door for some unique scenarios that go against the “typical” possession movie format. In other words, it made the movie somewhat unpredictable.
I felt that the filmmakers were wrong to show Edward Scarka’s story in the beginning, as it took away the opportunity for the audience to feel like they were going along for the ride with Sarah. Instead, the filmmakers force the audience in having to pretend they do not know the answers that Sarah is looking for, which definitely eliminated some impact. The movie also did not benefit by having Sarah be beneficial to both Miles and the entity within him, because I never felt like Sarah was in danger. This made the movie more creepy than scary. That being said, I liked the movie and thought Jackson Robert Scott (the young actor who played Miles) did a fantastic job. This, mixed with the unique take on a possession story, made for a movie that I enjoyed (even though I thought it could have been better).