We’ve seen this before!
Horror is a genre I think seesaws a lot. Classic executions old-schoolers (like myself) grew up with in the 70s and 80s will never see the light of day again. They’ve been buried so far deep within the crevasses of the film industry, digging themselves up and out like those zombies in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video is merely impossible. Their titles and narratives and overall styles are often imitated, but never duplicated. Every once-in-a-while aficionados of the genre will be treated to something special. Grateful for it, we leave it as is and move on with ZERO expectations the next fright flick will scare the pantalones off us, or at the very least come off pleasurable – and that’s part of what keeps our horrid hearts beating.
So where does THE PRODIGY stand? Well, for starters, it’s definitely a horror flick. Did it scare me? Eh… It takes A LOT for a flick to scare me. BUT… I’d be a fibber if I said I didn’t enjoy it. It’s got something and that’s good enough to keep a firm grip among its audience. Brought to you by Orion Pictures, the mind-bending thriller is directed by genre auteur Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact, At the Devil’s Door) and written by horror scribe Jeff Buhler (2019’s Pet Sematary), who also serves as an executive producer.
Starring Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Taylor Schilling (Orange Is The New Black) THE PRODIGY follows a mother (Schilling) whose son’s disturbing behavior signals that an evil, possibly supernatural force has overtaken him. Fearing for her family’s safety, she must choose between her maternal instinct to love and protect him and a desperate need to investigate what (or who) is causing his dark behavior. She is forced to look for answers in the past, taking the audience on a wild ride; one where the line between perception and reality become freakishly blurry.
In a nutshell, if you’ve seen one possession movie, you’ve seen them all. What makes PRODIGY decent is the different approach within the soul-snatching narrative. Yes, it’s layered with ALL of your typical horror clichés: strange occurrences that are shrugged off, parents in distress, naïve/helpless victims, spooky set-pieces, jump-scares, courage build-up, etc. But it’s an enjoyable mood-setter, elevated by its creepy kid antagonist played by Jackson Robert Scott, whose behavior generates an uneasy feeling. Aside from all the emotional and literal chaos he generates, the little fu*cker also goes around humming a song I’m sure will live in your head for a bit, too. There’s something about kids and horror that blends well. As the film plays, it’s also obvious it’s inspired by old and recent horror films. There’s a little Exorcist, Insidious, Amityville, Conjuring and a moment where this kid kind of looks like a live-action “Chucky.”
Not bad. Overall, THE PRODIGY doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s got its own swag. I appreciate and respect that it aims at being its own thing. It’s also a hard R! Keep that in mind, parents. They went there! I’m totally surprised at how harsh it was at times with its violence and language at the hands of the kid, and pleasantly surprised with its ending. One I didn’t see coming. THE PRODIGY will generate its audience. Granted it does well at the box office, this is a title I can see sequels for. That’s of course if they’re not written out already and in someone’s drive waiting for its exposure.
Grade: C+ | Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery | Rated: R | Run Time: 88 Minutes
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Peter Mooney, Colm Feore
Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy