What’s wrong with Miles?
This is the question that brings it all together in “The Prodigy.” Director Nicholas McCarthy (“Holidays,” “The Pact”) brings his previous horror pedigree to this creepy little number with a small but effective cast including Taylor Schilling as Sarah (“Orange is the New Black”), Jackson Robert Scott (“IT”) as Miles, and Colm Feore (“House of Cards”) as Arthur Jacobson.
Miles is not like the other kids. He has a genius intellect and a unique presence. With that comes behavior that is much more surreal…and sinister. His mother must get to the bottom of her son’s disturbing tendencies and do battle with whatever it is that’s wrong with Miles.
“The Prodigy” leans more heavily on jump scares than any other film that has come out in the last decade. Holy crap.
I’m not necessarily knocking it (maybe giving it mild side-eye). After all, the jumpscare is a common mark of modern horror. It’s what drives a viral campaign and grabs you in a trailer. But goddamn, “The Prodigy” peppers you so hard that in one sequence the audience was jolting to a synchronized beat.
It’s a lot.
To put on my snooty cinephile hat, I was pleased that “The Prodigy” didn’t exist solely for the jumpscare but worked a few interesting concepts in there. The film very lightly explores themes of maternal regret and the potentially consuming nature of motherhood, while pulling from very interesting cultural lore.
There’s not a lot of it, but those little nuggets just give you more to think about it and it’s appreciated.
“The Prodigy” does not have a very large cast and that is for the best. Schilling shines as Sarah and gives a minimal but grounded performance.
Scott is a name to watch, for sure. I usually struggle with child actors, but this kid is a star and does a great job. He shows a skill beyond his years and he was a joy to watch.
“The Prodigy” strikes a very even balance between doing things very well and doing things…not so well.
This film is genuinely creepy and gives you that good creepy-crawly feeling, which is a huge reason why the jumpscares are so effective. You never let your guard down, and that’s desirable in a horror film.
There are a few moments where visuals and what I’ll call “spook choices” that are intended to be a big scare just come off as silly and there is one legitimate “WTF” moment in “The Prodigy.” Not in a good way.
Put your seatbelt on, because this film’s got twists: plot twists and surprises, some good and some bad. Overall, the story is solid and progresses predictably along but to the satisfaction of any reasonable viewer. Some of the twists are welcome and others don’t land as well.
Not enough to be a gold star or a blemish, either way, but worth noting.
The one big flaw of “The Prodigy” was that it couldn’t quite commit to tone. Sometimes you’d get a line or a visual that screamed, “Hell yeah, we got an R rating!” but then it would quickly back off and that’s just too bad.
Commit to those F-bombs! Be jarring! Spill blood everywhere! We want it!
Ultimately, “The Prodigy” is a fun flick that will speak to the typical horror fan. “Rosemary’s Baby.” “The Omen.” Horror loves its creepy kids and “The Prodigy” is gonna fit in great with the rest of the class.
“The Prodigy” hits theaters on February 8. Go find out what’s wrong with Miles!
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.