A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Prodigy is a graphic horror movie about a child (Jackson Robert Scott) who grows up with a serial killer's personality inside his body, which makes him very, very dangerous. Expect lots of bloody violence, including extreme cruelty to an animal, human dismemberment, shootings, and one child attacking another with a blunt object. Strong language includes "f--k" and "s--t," and there's a graphic description of child rape. A minor character smokes. Taylor Schilling plays the boy's mother; Colm Feore and Peter Mooney co-star.
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What's the story?
In THE PRODIGY, a serial killer (Paul Fauteux) dies at the same moment a baby is born. As the boy, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott), grows, he develops an alarmingly split personality. His mother, Sarah (Taylor Schilling), realizes -- with the help of an expert (Colm Feore) -- that something sinister is occurring. Can she and her husband, John (Peter Mooney), find a way to save their son before it's too late?
Is it any good?
Clever direction and moody, effective cinematography can't quite rescue this horror movie from some confounding clichés. The Prodigy leads viewers to believe that it's going to rise above the genre when the adults figure out pretty early on that something very wrong is happening. But, nope. They proceed to make pretty much every possible bad choice to enable the horror to roll right along. That's a real issue when the gag isn't particularly original to begin with: This film fits neatly into the Bad Seed horror subgenre, along with The Omen, The Good Son, Orphan, and many others, albeit with its own slight wrinkles. But to say those bells and whistles make it original would be to give sole credit to Vanilla Ice for "Under Pressure."
The film isn't terrible. Director Nicholas McCarthy and cinematographer Bridger Nielson have worked together frequently, and it shows. There's a seamlessness to the use of imagery to set tone and convey information. The opening sequence, for instance, could be said to reveal too much, leaving audiences to sit and wait for the evil to emerge in the kid. But the way it's presented, with some thoughtful matching of images, shows promise. The movie's atmospheres are suitably foreboding and draped in poisonous shadows. And the performances are solid throughout: Schilling and Mooney are believable as a couple facing something unimaginable, and young Scott is outstanding in the most demanding role. But the characters' terrible decisions seem nakedly required for plot purposes, crippling any hope for tension or surprise. The movie also relies too heavily on startle scares. It does go to darker places than usual for most horror movies, but even that isn't new or different -- at least, not enough to make The Prodigy especially memorable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Was this film like any others you've seen (e.g., The Omen)? If so, was it original or effective enough to make you not care about similarities?
Does it bother you when, in horror movies, characters make clearly bad choices to enable plot points to occur?
- In theaters: February 8, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: May 7, 2019
- Cast: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Colm Feore
- Director: Nicholas McCarthy
- Studio: Orion Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, disturbing and bloody images, a sexual reference and brief graphic nudity
- Last updated: August 8, 2020
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