The Prodigy: directed by Nicholas McCarthy, written by Jeff Buhler, starring Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Brittany Allen, Colm Feore, and Peter Mooney.
Creepy kid movies, much like creepy doll movies, can go either way. They can be way over the top cheesy, or they can be seriously disturbing.
The Prodigy takes the creepy child trope to a whole other disturbing level.
Instead of being possessed by a demon, a ghost, or just being a weird misfit with Shining-esque abilities, the child in questions shares his body with the reincarnated soul of a serial killer. As if this wasn’t creepy enough, the soul of the killer is seeking dominance over the body, looking to surface long enough to take care of some unfinished business.
While the plot of this movie isn’t exactly transforming the “killer child” subgenre of horror, there are several ways that this film is executed that put it at the top of its game.
First of all, the child actor, Jackson Robert Scott, is remarkable in his portrayal of Miles. Most famously known for portraying Georgie in the It remake, he is just as amazing here, flipping from an adorable, ill-fated child to a monster in a split second with ease. This kid is destined for big things. He tackled some serious, adult content with such cold delivery that for a second he is the monster that is hiding in there.
Second, the script is fantastic. One of my pet peeves when it is a movie involving a demonic, possessed, or psychotic child is that the story often holds back. We are down for seeing a killer child for a scare because children are the very face of innocence; they are doing something that is not supposed to be built into them, and that’s what scares. But at the same time, these movies walk a line. They often seem to reach a brink where they are on the edge of telling a great story, but chicken out at the last minute and veer off track because audiences have a limit as to what they can handle when it comes to kids.
Fair warning, this script does no such veering. There are a couple of pretty shocking moment that really toe that line, and go into some seriously dark territory. I think that the scariest thing about this movie is the fact that the child, Miles, has no recollection of events that happen when the killer takes over. He sees the aftermath, and so he is aware that he was involved, but his innocence is real. He knows that whatever he is involved in, it’s bad and he’s in trouble. It’s uncomfortable, because this is a child who is doing things against his will and without his knowledge, and this movie makes a meal of honing that discomfort.
The third act really delivers, going to a very dark place for both the boy and his mother. This is not a movie built on jump scares, but more about building suspense and tension. If you’re looking to watch a movie that is smart and pushes the boundaries of both the killer kid and reincarnation categories of horror, you will do well to give The Prodigy a try.