The Prodigy Review

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Where would the horror genre be without creepy children?

by Kumari Tilakawardane Mar 17, 2019 at 7:44 AM

  • Movies & TV review

    The Prodigy Review

    The Prodigy packs in the jumps scares, but at the expense of plot and character development.

    Creepy children have become one of the real staples of the horror genre, along with shrieking kettles, harried mothers, mysterious dark basements, foreign language curses and unexplainably chilling hallways. If you’re a fan of the hits, you’ll find them all in spades in The Prodigy, which chooses shock tactics over anything else.

    Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) is unusual. You might say disturbed. We know this because he can’t connect with his mum, he stares a lot, and the film is called The Prodigy. We’re set up to realise we’re waiting for Miles to snap, and the film’s clumsy opening leaves us knowing in no uncertain terms that the forces of the supernatural have conspired against Miles’s mum Sarah (Taylor Schilling) to give her a psychotic son.

    The Prodigy feels like horror for the sake of horror – all scare, no substance

    Within the first half hour we’ve discovered the cause of the evil, the troubled homelife of Sarah and her husband John (Peter Mooney) and that, as the film’s tagline tells us, there’s something wrong with Miles. Thus, much of the next hour is spent reiterating these points, and allowing Miles to perform a series of disturbing acts with little to no resistance. True to form, there is an appearance of a spiritualist, Arthur (Colm Feore) who seeks to discover the secrets of Miles's violent behaviour.

    The middle portion of the film is a combination of horror conventions and tropes, amped up to deliver cliched, yet effective, jump-scares. This film isn’t reinventing the wheel, or bringing anything new or innovative to the horror genre. It recycles, references and adapts countless tropes from horror – there’s more than a shade of The Omen about it – seemingly for no reason. The Prodigy feels like horror for the sake of horror – all scare, no substance.

    The Prodigy
    The final act of the film is really the only part that’s memorable – and not really for the right reasons. A bizarre and mostly predictable third act contains a surprisingly unpredictable twist, but also a bit of a mess of plot information that involves revealing all the narrative’s secrets and carrying them out to the most absurd degree. It’s effectively gory and chilling, and totally ridiculous, but doesn’t offer anything new.

    In fact, perhaps it’s because of the film’s reliance on familiar horror conventions that there’s no real motivation or character development going on. We don’t really understand much about Sarah and John, much less why they act the way they do, and there isn’t really any explanation as to how the things that happen actually happened. Suspension of disbelief is a huge part of viewing any horror film, but The Prodigy’s over-reliance on well-known horror elements, lack of much originality and saturation of jump-scares makes it difficult to be drawn into its world, and even more difficult to take it seriously.

    The film is carried through by some compelling performances, particularly from Schilling, who manages to stay believable as a loving-yet-terrified mother even as the plot’s credibility falls around her. There are also a few variations in beat from director Nicholas McCarthy, which do imbue the atmosphere with electric foreboding, and create some genuinely scary moments.

    Essentially a mediocre rehashing of all your favourite scary moments from classic horrors

    The final act rushes up on you, in a way that is both too much to digest and the perfect amount of shocking. The final confrontation (rather than the final scene) is superbly acted, nicely paced and pretty enthralling, to the point where it’s easy to forget some of the overly-lingering shots from the middle sector. The ending is presumably intended to be shocking, but has been done almost to gory death in horrors many times over.

    Some well-done atmosphere setting, a couple of decent performances and the sure-fire creepfest that is a disturbed child don’t quite save this film, which is essentially a mediocre rehashing of all your favourite scary moments from classic horrors. Whereas you might expect to leave a horror film and not be able to shake the feeling of dread, it’s likely audiences will be able to sleep soundly after watching The Prodigy, with no memory of the scares and chills lingering whatsoever.

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