The Prodigy is serviceable; decently made technically, but is safe and toothless on the events of the film. In no way did I hate, or even dislike the movie; but didn’t really care for it either.
“What’s wrong with Miles” reads the tag line for the new creepy-kid horror flick from writer Jeff Buhler (the upcoming Pet Sematary remake – btw, don’t watch the new trailer; spoiler-tastic) and director Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact). Don’t worry so much about the answer to that question – we’re told in the second scene of the movie. Thanks to inter-cutting between police shooting a Hungarian serial killer in Ohio with the birth of Miles in Pennsylvania, the mystery is solved! Alright, gang, let’s go to the malt shop!
Leading with the biggest question’s answer is emblematic of the film on the whole; everything is given to the audience. If a scene isn’t obviously telegraphed, it follows as one would expect from the sub-genre. Mostly. Where it deviates is pulling itself back. This is an R-Rated movie. You wouldn’t know it from the contents of the film.
What do I mean from that? Everything goes exactly as one would expect, except with little bloodshed. Bloodshed doesn’t make a movie, but the choices by the team refuse to take risks. Despite multiple attacks, the body count sits at three. The opening one mentioned above and two during the end.
Some light spoilers in this regard in theisparagraph. Miles’s father John (Peter Mooney) gets stabbed and lives. The underutilized psychologist who focuses on patients with more than one soul in them (yes, really) Colm Feore is not attacked (he either needed the metronome in his eye or revealed to be part of it; instead he’s just exposition giver). A babysitter early on should have been a stakes setter, was a cut on her foot and a shrug. So much of a shrug, I had forgotten the scene even happened until talking to Kim on the ride home.
My group and I talked how the movie lacked that kill that really set in the danger – sure there is the babysitter and the student who gets hit with a wrench but both are forgotten as soon as they pass. Mom needed a friend to talk to about the issues she’s having with Miles who gets killed when alone with him. These people seem not to have any friends or lives outside of this scene, indicating the under-written script. What does the dad do for a living? What does mom Sarah (Taylor Shilling) do all day? Who ARE they?
My annoyance with the safe nature of the piece reared up as the film approached climax. There is an action that is first hinted at to need to happen to possibly get closure. For the briefest of seconds, I thought “okay this could get mean and take a turn.” but then I remembered, it hasn’t before – why would it now? And it doesn’t. One can see a better film just a draft or two away; taking that step to make it more memorable.
McCarty does well with what he has. The look of the film is suitably muted and he has some fine set ups and the scare-scenes are well-designed albeit slight. The trailer scare stolen from Mario Bava’s Shock works in film despite the sheer amount of times I’ve seen it since the first time I saw the trailer in front of Halloween. Jackson Robert Scott, previously best known as Georgie in It was great as Miles; he was able to play the quickly changing energies Miles is putting out well. I felt he could have killed it with better direction. The adults were lacking. Taylor Shilling was the same bland wide-eyed “whaaat” style of acting she has as Piper, and the dad was barely registering as a character. Dude could have been a neighbor for how much chemistry he had with the others. Definately not enough Colm Feore, but nothing ever does.
The Prodigy was decently well made, but lacked tension and any real bite. It’ll be fine when rented or streamed from home, but not worth the theatrical trip.