Cast: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Paul Fauteux, Colm Feore
Director: Nicholas McCarthy
At this point of the year, all I’m really looking for from a horror release is that it won’t end up as one of the worst movies of the year. As probably the first true horror movie of the year, my expectations for The Prodigy were cautious to say the least, but we ended up with a movie that honestly not that bad. Far from a perfect movie with an amazing performance by Scott, the story is kind of a mess, but at least you can tell there was a certain level of care that was put into this movie that is sorely missing from generic movies coming out around this time of year.
The film follows Sarah Blume (Schilling) as she has to deal with the development of her son Miles (Scott) and the violent tendencies he has from a young age. As his actions get darker over time, Sarah has to come to the reality that maybe her child can’t be saved from his behavior and that she may have to make the toughest decision of her life. The thing that this movie does very well is it generates an incredible performance out of Scott, which is very rare for a child actor. If I had to describe his acting skill in this film, I would say it’s about the same as the performance James McAvoy gave in Glass, but not quite as refined since Scott is still a young boy. His ability to switch emotions without any sense of hesitation at his age is incredibly impressive and makes him one of the young actors you’ll probably want to keep your eye on in upcoming years. Outside of Scott’s performance, I almost gave this film a standing ovation when they decided not to include one of my biggest gripes about low-effort horror movies. In a scene where a character is running through the woods, this movie decided not to use any shaky cam and shoot the scene normally. They actually wanted us to see what was happening in the scene! I got incredibly nervous when I saw woods in the background and thought to myself, “oh no we’re about to get something straight out of Slender Man aren’t we,” but to my surprise the scene was well done and palatable. Moving onto the plot, it’s nothing particularly special, but at the end of the day it’s not the worst thing we’ve ever seen. Sure the supernatural stuff teeters between being mundane and being confusing, but at least it was somewhat grounded within the parameters that the plot sets up for us. The events surrounding the plot might be kind of goofy, but the fact that we actually feel some sort of emotional investment in the characters which allows the plot to unfold in a way where the movie can generate some sort of reaction out of the audience. A solid horror movie can do that and that’s exactly what The Prodigy is, a solid, middle-of-the-road horror movie that is absolutely fine for a February release.
Overall, if you’re looking to find this year’s Hereditary or A Quiet Place, you’ll have to look elsewhere as The Prodigy isn’t what you’re looking for. However if you’re looking for a movie that you can reasonably enjoy in 92 minutes that won’t make you hate your life, then this movie should do the trick. About a year ago, we were getting movies like Winchester and Insidious: The Last Key, so the fact that we got something that is at least watchable shows that there is a possibility to make early-year horror releases that are good. Hopefully studios can learn from The Prodigy and understand that you don’t need to make the perfect horror movie, but if you make something at least somewhat entertaining, audiences will appreciate it.
Overall Score: 5/10