By ARIA SALESSI
It has been a while since a film using the classic creepy child trope has been released and luckily, on February 8, 2019, The Prodigy hit theater screens. This horror/thriller was directed by Nicolas McCarthy, and has so far received low ratings, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 43%.
Sarah (Taylor Schilling) and John Blume (Peter Mooney) are ecstatic when they realize their young son Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) isn’t like any other child. His development and intelligence are far more superior than anyone his age. However, after Miles’ behavior starts becoming strange and dangerous, Sarah gets help from two experts, revealing her disturbed son has come under the dark force of something sinister.
When I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought it was going to be another generic horror film about a child being possessed by some sort of demon. Fortunately, The Prodigy managed to skim past the tropes of this genre and give audiences a fresh and disturbing twist. At the beginning of the film, a serial killer gets shot and killed by a group of SWAT members. Minutes later, Sarah and John are in a hospital and give birth to their miracle son, Miles. Towards the end of the film, the experts Sarah consults say that the serial killer who was killed was reincarnated into Miles. This most likely happened due to his death and Miles’ birth occurring at the same time. This aspect of the film was very interesting and unique to watch unfold. As the film progressed, Miles didn’t seem like the sweet boy in the beginning of the film, but exactly like the psychopath who murdered several people. Throughout the film, there were also a few disturbing instances where Sarah saw the face or figure of the serial killer within Miles. Although there are dozens of films involving kids being possessed by some sort of demon, Miles getting possessed by a serial killer creates different and much more disturbing twist to this genre of film.
One of the best parts of the film was the acting, especially Scott’s. At the beginning of the film, he made Miles seem like a very pure and innocent child, until his behavior became quite erratic, like the time he beat one of his classmates with a wrench. Throughout the film, Scott managed to shift from being charming to frightening in a matter of seconds. Some of the lines he said in the film were so shocking that they made me gasp. I wasn’t able to get my head around how he could say things that were so dark and gut-wrenching. Scott was the perfect actor to play Miles and I couldn’t see anyone else playing him.
Another thing I enjoyed about the film was how Miles’ disturbing behavior worsened at small increments. He goes from eating a lot of paprika to speaking Hungarian in his sleep, killing his dog and once again beating his classmate with a wrench. You would think that these actions were disturbing enough, but he did even more terrifying things towards the end of the film. Miles’ slow descent from an innocent child to a psychopath makes viewers feel sorry for him, but also deeply disturbed and frightened at the same time.
Lastly, something appreciable about the film was how it didn’t rely on jump scares to frighten its audience. Miles’ deranged behavior and the disturbing things he would say so subtly were excellent for creating a chilling atmosphere throughout the film.
With its extraordinary child actor and terrifying twist to the creepy child genre, The Prodigy will leave audiences, and anyone with a clever child in horrific awe and paranoia.