The Prodigy [2019] (a film review by Frank Ochieng).

So it appears that ‘The Prodigy’ is the latest evil kid creepfest to re-emerge and offer its familiar spin on the bizarre brat from hell formula. One thing for sure…this kiddie creeper will certainly make you consider any hankering for Hungarian jingles or cravings for pakrika on your favourite dish. Or perhaps not.  Whatever the case, ‘The Prodigy’ bursts out of the gateway of gore in an attempt to sensationalise the brilliant but broken mechanics of a terrorising tot that is possessed beyond belief.

The blueprint screams for the sordid makings of a lost lad and his affinity for devilish dealings. However, ‘The Prodigy’ is not very precocious or original in its aimless gamble to recycle the tired antics of a tedious tyke gone dark and demonic.

Director Nicholas McCarthy (‘The Pact’) and screenwriter Jeff Buhler (‘Midnight Meat Train’) want to concoct a grim and psychological curiosity concerning the profile of a corrosive clean-cut kid mired in unpredictability. The problem remains that there is never anything profoundly distinctive or intrinsically twisted about this particular problematic punk that we have not seen countless times before. Lazily, ‘The Prodigy’ methodically rips off other crazed-kid frightners without instilling anything uniquely compelling to stimulate the otherwise commonplace spooky factor of a reckless rascal on the questionable edge.

McCarthy’s sluggish direction along with the by-the-dots triggered tension merely belabors the point that ‘The Prodigy’ could have explored more territory in the dynamics of its situational quandary regarding a troubled mother-son bonding. The film’s build-up to the suggestive scares is somewhat notable but the payoff struggles to register in the long run. The beleaguered boy in question, 8 year-old Miles (Jackson Robert Scott), steadily comes off as a tease more so than a presented twisted anomaly worthy investigating.

The story centres around the super-smart Miles, a gifted, brainy-minded boy blessed with immense potential and intelligence. However, there are also the considerations of Mile’s delayed development in other areas that beg for rationalising. Specifically, Miles seems to have an indescribably complicated relationship with his concerned mother Sarah (Taylor Schilling). Strangely, Miles acts awkward and uneasy around Sarah.

In fact, he actually cusses out his mother in a Hungarian tongue. Also, others do not seem to escape Miles’s wrath neither. The bombastic youngster had brutally attacked a peer with a dangerous tool. As for the family dog…let’s just say that PETA would not exactly be thrilled with mini-maniac Miles as its poster boy for cherishing critters of all types. Oh yeah…just as bewildered about his sadistic seed’s misguided actions is father John (Peter Mooney). Both parents, apparently, are mystified, mesmerised, and miffed about the complex kid they bred. Go figure.

THE PRODIGY may be smart and calculating as he should. But mark my words…this chaotic kid is up to no good!

In any event, ‘The Prodigy’ delves into the realm of parental purgatory, mildly pitting Sarah and John against one another in reference to their uncontrollable, divisive child. For John, he is more realistic about what turmoil in going inside of the maddening Miles. As an abusive child, John seems to grasp the importance of his son’s erratic behavior in lashing out while speaking head-scratching foreign nonsense.

On the other hand, Sarah is too over-protective and does not seem to want to know the realities of Miles’s deadly dysfunction. After all, what she does not know or understand about Miles will not hurt her.  She loves Miles to death but ends up facing the ultimate truth, the boy needs some emergency intervention before his self-destructive tendencies become too much to handle. The various fits of violence and undiscovered rage within persists. Can Sarah reach the inner demons of her turbulent tyke before it is too late?

Sure, ‘The Prodigy’ has its shared moments of atmospheric chills. Plus, one actually feels the bout of anxieties and angst that the parents harbor for their little haywire hood out on a loony limb. Still, McCarthy’s gruesome vision is something not remotely viable given the fact that the obvious influences (‘Rosemary’s Baby’ meets ‘The Exorcist’ meets ‘The Bad Seed’) feels exhaustively played out.

Miles is not as transfixing as McCarthy’s direction and Buhler’s script allows him to be due to the sketchy boundaries of a junior sullen soul going through the predictable motions. Scott’s Miles could be interesting as an All-American boy unassuming the face of a mini-sized ‘Romper Room’ reaper on the loose but the minimal material fails the young performer more often than not. ‘Orange Is The New Black’s Schilling is effective as the brutal boy’s caring and conflicted mother trying to make sense out of this horrific happening with her cherished flesh and blood. Too bad there was not any further serving of Mooney’s John as he is short-changed in the raucous proceedings.

Synthetically sadistic, ‘The Prodigy’ needs to be forgotten in the flimsy film factory of violent kiddie caper and it wouldn’t hurt a bit if the miserable Miles was in need of a supernatural spanking as well.

The Prodigy

Orion Pictures

1 hr. 32 mins.

Starring: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Peter Mooney, Colm Feore and Brittany Allen

Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy

Written by: Jeff Buhler

Rating: R

Genre: Horror/Psychological Thriller/Drama

Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2019.


Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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