Published Feb 06, 2019Here's the elevator pitch for The Prodigy: creepy kid does some spooky shit.
As you could have guessed from the poster, this is yet another horror movie about a sadistic child with doting parents and a supernatural backstory. The kid's name is Miles, and he just happens to be born the same night a serial killer is fatally wounded during a police raid. (Just wait, that's going to be important later!)
Through a series of childhood vignettes, we learn that Miles is a talented little guy who says his first words at an early age and aces intelligence tests. His parents Sarah (Taylor Schilling) and John (Peter Mooney) want the best for him, so they enrol him in a special school for the gifted. Everything is fine and dandy until he beats the crap out of a classmate with a heavy duty tool from the janitor's closet.
Ultimately, Miles's intellect is irrelevant to the plot — all that really matters is his mean streak, and his supposed genius mostly consists of him hanging around in his bedroom with a Rubik's Cube.
Most of the film takes place when Miles is 8, at which point he's settled into a nice routine of dead-eyed stares, mutilating the babysitter and muttering violent threats in Hungarian. Normal psychopath stuff. Miles' mom takes Miles to a doctor, and things quickly get less scientific when he is diagnosed with an acute case of being a reincarnated serial killer.
It's all perfectly serviceable horror movie stuff, with jump scares and an eerie orchestral score from Joseph Bishara. No matter how times we've seen this routine before, there's still something unsettling and darkly comical about watching a kid act like a violent killer. Taylor Schilling effectively conveys the conflict of a parent torn between love and fear of their own child, while lead youngster Jackson Robert Scott does a good job of switching between acting a scared little kid and a sinister sociopath.
The problem is, The Prodigy never quite goes deeper than its boilerplate premise. That doesn't make it a bad movie, but it also doesn't make it a particularly interesting one either.