“The Prodigy” is affront to the modern horror genre with absolutely no care to the great horror masterpieces that came before.
The film, directed by Nicholas McCarthy, stars Taylor Schilling, of “Orange is the New Black” fame, and Jackson Robert Scott, recognizable from his role as Georgie in 2017’s “It.” Schilling and Scott are mother and son respectively, and Scott’s character is the titular prodigy. He develops at a speed much quicker than children his age and after he turns eight, Schilling starts noticing strange changes in his behavior. He starts to become violent and the film’s cornerstone reveals itself.
This movie has a multitude of issues, the worst of which being the film’s general lack of a cohesive plot. The film tries to have its cake and eat it too in a number of ways. The script is so bland. The dialogue falls flat and the plot development from scene to scene is incredibly amateur. This development is amateur to the point that the film’s supposed scariest moments are completely telegraphed. The film has a severe lack of suspense, which is detrimental in a horror film.
The loosely-tied plot has many holes as a block of Swiss cheese. There are moments when the script contradicts itself in the most bizarre and unnecessary fashion. The film attempts to push this ridiculous narrative about reincarnation, which has a secondary implication relating reincarnation to evil, that doesn’t hold up to the actual philosophy of reincarnation. Scott’s character supposedly has two souls inside him: one his own naturally born, the other an evil spirit. This directly contradicts what reincarnation believes which is a single soul living through multiple bodies. This film is just another symptom example of misappropriation where a film wants to sound scary or mystical but incorrectly utilizing a concept from another culture because it sounds inherently foreign.
Paired with the film’s asinine plot is the lack of fear factor. None of this movie is scary, save for a jump scare here and there, i.e. a cheap scare. The reason this movie doesn’t work past the director’s failings is simply that scary movies featuring youth or youth-related items have already been done. Movies like “Child’s Play,” “Children of the Corn,” and “Pet Sematary” have all been made and are in the public consciousness. It’s no longer scary to associate innocence with horror and this film completely misses that point.
Ultimately, “The Prodigy” is just unsympathetic to movies of the past or to the horror genre as a whole. It attempts to be scary for fear’s sake which just doesn’t work. It’s the kind of bland horror that infuriates people when they see it because it is just so lazy. Of course, the blame could be shifted to the director. McCarthy’s resume previous to “The Prodigy” includes four short films, four episodes of crime documentary, a made-for-TV movie and one short segment of an anthology film. The sloppiness and lack of precision in this film clearly is the result of unreflective practice. “The Prodigy” receives a D-minus rating.