If you think the terrible twos are bad, beware the homicidal eights. “The Prodigy” is a new horror film from "The Pact" director Nicholas McCarthy that brings every parent’s worst nightmare to life.
Suburban parents Sarah (Taylor Schilling) and John (Peter Mooney) deal with the struggles and horrors of raising their overly-intelligent son Miles (Jackson Robert Scott). After several increasingly disturbing events occur, the couple begins to suspect that intelligence isn’t the only thing residing within their little prodigy. Nicholas McCarthy navigates this nightmare with a basic, yet successful script by Jeff Buhler that delivers nicely on its scares and general story.
The two main adult performances within the film are pretty straightforward. The relationship between Schilling’s Sarah and Mooney’s John doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table in terms of diversity or uniqueness. Mooney’s character doesn’t get as much flexibility as Schilling’s, but as he starts to give up hope, his portrayal of an ailing father is more evident.
Scott is the film’s true standout. Most well-known for his recent role in “It” as Georgie, Scott gives “The Omen’s” Damien Thorn a run for his money with his intense performance as Miles. He delivers terrifying lines with extreme menace in his inflection and actually appears as an intimidating force throughout the film, despite being surrounded by adults.
Audiences do get a good idea of what is wrong with Miles early on in the film through a sequence with some impressive, yet telling editing. While the lead characters scramble around trying to figure out exactly what is going on, the audience is already aware. It’s an extended period of catch up for the characters that’s a bit off-putting. Luckily, the film is able to pull off another twist at the end to make the character’s realization worth the wait.
This film knows exactly what it wants to be: a horror film. Although it does use an abundance of unnecessary jump scares, the film is definitely aware that there are other ways to frighten an audience. Shocking imagery and sinister situations are just enough to get spines tingling. The framing and movement of the camera leads the eye to each morbid revelation. An overall sense of dread is present throughout its runtime, and the audience is left waiting for things to progressively get darker and darker.
Another unique aspect of the film is its visual style. Scenes set on Halloween create beautiful contrast with bright orange colors and the pale white suburban aesthetic. Miles sports an interesting wardrobe throughout the film, offering insight into his character. He wipes off half of his Halloween makeup to represent his evil duality and wears a onesie similar to a prison jumpsuit. Miles also has heterochromia, making one eye hazel and the other a bright blue. These elements give Miles a unique and memorable look.
The terrifying child character has been done to death over the course of film history. “The Prodigy” takes a interesting approach to the cause and effects of Miles’s evil ambitions and has fun with the concept. “The Prodigy” takes everything you’d expect from an evil child movie and molds it into its own unique and morbid tale of parenting gone wrong.
“The Prodigy” hits theaters Friday, Feb. 8.