★ ★ ☆
Imagine being frightened of your own child. That is the terrible situation of young mom Sarah (Taylor Schilling) in “The Prodigy,” a new psychological horror from director Nicholas McCarthy.
Schilling is mother to Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) an extraordinarily gifted child who spoke at twenty weeks and could generally outthink everyone by the time he was old enough to walk. “Nothing wrong with this little guy,” says a doctor. “He’s very aware. Here’s what we call a smarty-pants.”
Soon though he displays antisocial behaviour. He can’t seem to connect with people at school, perhaps because he beat a classmate with a wrench in lab class. In his sleep he angrily mumbles some kind of foreign language. “You were having a bad dream,” mom says waking him. “It wasn’t a bad dream,” he says. “It was a good dream.”
Concerned that something is amiss Sarah takes Miles to a psychologist. Unable to find a medical reason for Miles’s condition the doctor refers him to another specialist, a professor (Colm Feore) who believes there is a battle being waged inside Miles. Most of the world believes in reincarnation he explains, wondering if could Miles be an old soul having another go at life. “These souls return for a reason to complete a task,” he says.
If Miles is sharing a body with an invading soul, what job must he complete? Which one will become dominant?
As far as creepy kid movies go “The Prodigy” is a six out of ten. The kid, with his blank stare and mismatched eyes gives Damien a run for his money—especially when he says stuff like, “Sometimes I leave my body when I sleep. I do it to make room.”—it’s the details that earn a demerit or two.
Director McCarthy does a good job at building tension and sets up some good set pieces but he’s undone somewhat not by the silly-but-fun premise but by ridiculous things that don’t make sense that distract from the main story. How is Miles still allowed to attend school after he wacked a kid with a wrench? Why does Sarah leave some material that clearly gives away what she’s about to do where Miles can see it? It goes on. I’m not looking for credibility in a movie about (MILD SPOILER!!) a reincarnated serial killer but virtually everything that doesn’t make sense also could have been avoided without changing the DNA of the story one iota.
“The Prodigy” is a little heavy-handed—Miles washes off his Halloween skull make up, but only from one side of his face, leaving behind an image that represents the duality of his personality—but it embraces the wild nature of its story, providing just enough uncomfortable moments to earn a recommendation.
2 ½ STARS