The Prodigy

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Prodigy
"Solid on atmosphere but structurally weak."

Solid on atmosphere but structurally weak, Nicholas McCarthy's film - written by Jeff Buhler, who also co-wrote the upcoming Pet Sematary adaptation - is a creepy exercise in 'your kid really is a little devil' territory undone by predictability and not enough characterisation.

The film tips its hand very early on by dovetailing the story of the death of a hand-lopping serial killer (Paul Fauteux) with the birth of a boy (Jackson Robert Scott) to loving couple Sarah (Taylor Schilling) and John (Peter Mooney) who have been trying to start a family for years. Armed with quite a bit of this back story, it's easy to see where the tale is going as little Miles - quickly developing into a boy genius - begins to swap smiles for sinister wiles.

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McCarthy keeps the tension up in the shadowy spaces of the family's house, which comes with an under-lit landing and the obligatory basement where Bad Things can happen. He also does a good job of showing the 'split' in miles, through moments when half of his face is obscured by shadow or make-up. But he employs what is essentially multiple variations on the same jump scare - itself a familiar horror film trope - with diminishing returns.

The film is at its best when he sets the trickery to one side in order to consider the relationship between Sarah and Miles, with one of the most tense scenes springing from what potentially might happen as opposed to what does, but hopes of psychological development of a mother being frightened of her own son's intelligence are jettisoned early on. The character of John is so under-developed he could be replaced by a standee and reincarnation expert Arthur (albeit played with enjoyable commitment by Colm Feore) is really only present to grease the wheels of the plot in ways that are less than gripping for an audience who is already way ahead of the characters in terms of what is going on.

Schilling is fully committed as Miles's mum but it's Robert Scott who steals the show here, one minute sweet Haley Joel Osment dot, the next the creepiest kid on the block.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2019
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The Prodigy packshot
The soul of a serial killer fights for the soul of a child.
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