So, it seems that Georgie was never the same after he emerged from the sewer Pennywise pulled him into.

The Prodigy is directed by Nicholas McCarthy, who has shown a preference for making horror films with his previous titles The Pact and At the Devil’s Door. Writing credit goes to Jeff Buhler, the man behind the new adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s Nightflyers, and the screenplay for the upcoming Pet Sematary remake.

On the night that a serial killer is gunned down by the police, Sarah (Taylor Schilling) gives birth to a baby boy named Miles (played by Georgie actor Jackson Robert Scott). By the age of eight, Miles has demonstrated a high level of intelligence, but he is also starting to act strangely, much to the concern of his mother and father (Peter Mooney). Once her child starts to get violent and displays a sadistic level of immorality, Sarah enlists the help of therapist Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore), who discovers that Miles may share a disturbing connection to the unknown killer. A connection that sends Sarah spiraling to find a way to save her son.

Children are scary. Period. Children in horror movies can be very scary, and despite the standards as set by The Exorcist, there is still room for innovation. As such, there is no problem to be had with the underlying concept behind what Miles is going through. I shall not spoil it, but the idea allows for a bipolar-type performance that can keep the audience on their toes. The problem is that the film does very little with it. Any frights you may have will come from visual cues (in other words, cheap jump scares), and the level of psychological horror in The Prodigy is held back by problems with its structure, payoff, and its own priorities.

As par the course for bad horror films, the decisions and conclusions that the characters come to are beyond belief. While I can fully buy and appreciate the mother-and-son relationship thanks to Schilling and Scott’s onscreen chemistry, it does not make sense for the progression as played out in the film. The best example of this is when Sarah decides on the course of action to supposedly save Miles. It is given no foundation and illustrates madness at a time and place where there really should not be. Giving the evil entity what it wants never works out well. The result is a unsatisfying ending that will leave audiences not caring about what happens next.

Thankfully, Jackson Robert Scott is a decent child actor. He works well with the dialogue and the direction he’s being given. The same can be said for Taylor Schilling. The film’s emotional core lies with her and she enjoys a likable relationship with both her husband and son. You legitimately do not want to see bad things happen to this family. For how this movie is billed, Colm Feore is underused. It is a shame because his charisma would have come in handy, and the horror manifestations that happen between him and Miles are when the movie starts to get creepy. Cutting away from them in favor of Sarah is not a bad thing, but then we have to focus on her terrible character decisions. On top of that, the background into the forces that are haunting Miles is not enough. We cannot be fearful of something if we are not given enough insight into it. The opposite of this is the same. Too much obscurity and people are left scratching their heads wondering what is going on.

It is those decisions, and a lack of proper or even outlandish scares, that makes The Prodigy a dumb and boring movie. This despite Nicholas McCarthy’s directing meeting genre standards. He uses an appropriate colour pallete with his cinematography and does not make extensive use of a musical score to prop up the climaxes. But it is let down by the writing and its inability to induce fear. I would give points if it’s intention backfired and it induced laughter, but it doesn’t do that either.

Last Updated: February 8, 2019

The Prodigy
Good acting on the part of Jackson Robert Scott and Taylor Schilling is not enough to save the life of a bland and ridiculous horror outing. the Prodigy lives up nowhere to its name in both the story it wants to tell, and how it expects the audience to react to it.
3.5
/10

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