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Film: The Prodigy
Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Writer: Jeff Buhler
Starring: Jackson Robert Scott, Taylor Schilling and Peter Mooney
This was a film that I wanted to see when I first heard about it. I’m intrigued when it comes to films about weird children and this definitely gave off a The Omen vibe from the trailer. It took me until it hit DVD to finally see it and I wrote up this review. The synopsis is a mother concerned about her young son’s disturbing behavior thinks something supernatural may be affecting him.
The film begins showing us an old house in Montgomery County, Ohio. We see a woman escape from the door. We learn later her name is Margaret St. James (Brittany Allen). She flees into the wilderness and stops a car. It is then we realize, she is missing a hand. Juxtaposed with this is Sarah Blume (Taylor Schilling) going into labor in Pennsylvania. Her husband is freaked out, John (Peter Mooney). They go to the hospital. We go back to Ohio where the police raid the house that belongs to Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux). He is killed and we learn later on he is a serial killer. The final image here is that his gunshot wounds matches the blood on Miles, Sarah and John’s new son.
We then get to meet the boy at age 2, 5 and finally 8. It is during these different times in his life we learn some things about him. The first is that he has a hazel and a blue eye. He is extremely smart, to the point where Sarah takes him to doctors to measure his IQ and they soon learn, he has issues connecting with his peers. We do see that he has some quirks as well. The first is that he crushes a spider and seems to enjoy it.
Miles ends up being played by Jackson Robert Scott. We get an interesting scene where dinner is given to him and he asks to use paprika. When pushed on this, he doesn’t know how he knows what it is, but he knows he likes it. They assume it is just his advancement. That night though he has a violent run-in with his babysitter during a game of Hide and Seek. There’s another at school that is even worse that sparks Sarah to take Miles to Dr. Elaine Strasser (Paula Boudreau). Sarah also records Miles while he is talking in his sleep and gives the tape to Dr. Strasser. She brings in Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore) who reveals the language Miles is speaking is a peculiar dialect from Hungary that is spoken close to the Romanian border.
When the family dog goes missing, John becomes upset with Miles and there is a history that is revealed with him. What is going on with this boy? Can he be saved before he is too late?
Now I will admit, I did go a bit vague here, because I don’t want to spoil what is revealed as what is happening to Miles. It does come fairly early in the movie and I think it does a solid job at establishing this with things shown early on. My issue here though, I don’t actually think this is what people who believe in this concept really think it works this way. Many, including myself, don’t believe it in at all, but since it can’t be proven, I guess it could be.
Something I did really like about the film is how evil they show Miles can be. There is something that is quite frightening when you have a child that has no remorse for his actions and does some pretty heinous things, which are given here. I will warn you, there is a dog in the film and it really turns me to hating the child with what happens to it.
A big issue I had with how this film plays out, I don’t believe Sarah would decide to do what she did. I understand that she wants to save him, but she isn’t completely sure her plan would work and I think it really is out of character for her to make the decision she does. I really think this actually hurts the film for me, because I don’t believe it.
This brings me to another issue I had, which was the pacing of the film. I just found it to be boring. The introduction seems really rushed and we move through a lot of things really quickly. It doesn’t give a lot of time to process what they are showing to you. The film then slowed down a bit too much and it was actually jarring. I do like the implications at the end of the film, but it also seems like they were trying too hard to make it feel bleak at the end in my opinion. You are talking to someone who loves bleak endings and even I was put off a bit by it.
It is a shame though, because there is some good acting here. I thought Scott did well at conveying being a sympathetic child to being a completely monster. The change could actually happen on a dime, which really impressed me about a kid this young. I’m definitely impressed. I thought Schilling was solid as the mother. The only issues I have with are her motivation. Mooney was fine, but we don’t get a lot of him. I found this to be a bit odd, especially with how they try to present the character. I just didn’t feel that it was possible. I think him being violent needed to be introduced before it is hinted at. Feore is a guy I don’t see a lot of, but he is solid in everything I have, including this. Fauteux was pretty good as well in his limited role. The rest of the cast did round this out for what was needed as well.
To the effects of the film, there weren’t a lot of them to be honest. The blood and the attack scenes we do get are done practical. They also look good. There was some CGI, but they hid it. I’m actually a big fan of this as it doesn’t give us a chance to critique it too much. I will say, it was freaky seeing Miles look like Scarka, but you aren’t completely sure that’s what you are seeing. The film is shot very well also.
The final thing to cover is the soundtrack of the film. For the most part, it really didn’t stand out to me, but it didn’t hurt the film really either. I will say that I liked the use of the song that Miles is humming. It does come off as somewhat creepy and even more when Sarah pushes him on it. She is starting to believe what Arthur told her and this is more evidence. I did think that was well played.
Now with that said, this film was actually pretty disappointed. I thought there were some good ideas here and concepts, but it falls a bit flat. This is an underutilized concept for sure. I think a lot of it is hurt by the pacing and how some things a presented. Motivations of characters are something else I had issue with. The acting was pretty solid though and I thought the effects that were used, both practical and CGI, were good. The soundtrack didn’t stand out overall, but I liked the use of Miles humming. Overall I do just find this film to be slightly above average. I would still say give it a viewing if this sounds interesting as it isn’t horrible, but just disappointing.
My Rating: 6 out of 10