Children are no easy task to manage in reality. With some supernatural forces thrown into the mix as well, problems are bound to arise. These problems and more are expanded upon in Nicholas McCarthy’s latest film, The Prodigy. The film is an entertaining horror that asks the one question every mother regularly ponders: Just how far am I willing to go for my child?
The film opens on a very cliché note standard to most horror films, but that quickly subsides. We are then introduced to a happily married couple, played by Taylor Schilling and Peter Mooney. The baby they have been expecting has decided it wants to come out sooner rather than later. This is when the audience gets to meet Miles, a gifted child that is brilliantly performed by young Jackson Robert Scott. The nuances of this household are then shown, and it allows for a more believable experience, which The Prodigy benefits from immensely.
The essence of this film relies almost exclusively on the relationship between Schilling and Scott. Without convincing chemistry, it would have been doomed to fail. Fortunately, this bond is the strongest aspect of the film. Schilling gives a performance that is both genuine and restrained. She seems like a great fit for horror, and hopefully, she will continue down this path. And returning to the horror genre after 2017’s fantastic It adaptation is the young Scott. Many child actors can come across as inexperienced, but this observation does not apply to Scott. In other words, his screen presence is extremely ominous.
Like Miles, he is absolutely terrifying whenever his sinister demeanor flows off the screen. And as menacing as he can be, he can just as easily flip the switch and be an adorable eight-year-old. The highlight of the film comes during a sequence involving a metronome and Scott flexing his acting chops. Due to the near silence of the scene, we are allowed to fully absorb the only aspect in focus: Miles. It’s arguably the most disturbing moment of the film as well and is sure to be remembered as one of the better scenes of the year so far. However, it’s moments like these that emphasize certain bits of the film that are lacking.
For example, the editing in the film has hints of brilliance yet never fully commits. It is almost akin to Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House when it is at its best. Yet more often than not it reverts to a basic form of editing. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it clearly could have been so much more. There are also a few moments that simply felt out of place for a horror that pulled the tension out of scenes. Although, there are many humorous moments that work very well due to the family dynamic. Finally, there is a theme of The Prodigy that if expanded more upon, would have elevated it to greater heights.
Early on, the film makes it a point to emphasize the contrast between reality and perception. With more examination, the dynamic between Schilling and everybody around her would have worked better on two levels. Firstly, it would have allowed the bond of motherhood to be tested and played with more. Secondly, more alternatives would have been on hand to use with this concept in mind. As a viewer, not knowing exactly what or who to believe would have allowed for some very interesting discussions. The penultimate scene, which could have very easily been the final moment, was fantastic. However, with this theme dissected further, it would have become almost heart-wrenching.
Nevertheless, The Prodigy is a capable film in its own right. It relies a bit too much on jump scares at times, and there are a few of the usual horror tropes. Still, there is more than enough to enjoy throughout. Through the eerie repetitive humming to the excellent performances, this is a horror that highlights all that it means to be a parent.
What do you think is the scariest horror film revolving around children? Are you excited for The Prodigy? Let us know in the comments below!
The Prodigy will be playing in theaters nationwide starting February 8th, 2019.