What happens when a cold-blooded serial killer reincarnates into a newborn baby’s body? It becomes a huge mess.
Though the events in “The Prodigy” are messy and gory, the storyline is even more messy, as it lacks clarity and is filled with cliches. In “The Prodigy,” the proud mother of a genius, Sarah (Taylor Schilling), is left to choose between having a normal life with her son and figuring out what is wrong with him.
Sarah’s son, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott), proves that he is a very bright, yet complicated, child from the moment he is born. He even starts to speak at only a few months old. However, his advanced skills seem to come with some side effects — the child shows no emotion or fear toward anything a child would usually be afraid of, and he has a habit of speaking gibberish in his sleep.
As he grows up, Miles performs extraordinarily well on all tests he is subjected to. This leads his parents to register him in a school for talented children. This genius motif is predictable, and it’s not surprising that Miles seems to have a difficult time understanding social cues and getting along with his peers.
After Miles violently attacks one of his classmates over a small dispute, Sarah decides to take him to another doctor for more tests. After their first appointment, the doctor invites Sarah over the next day and introduces her to Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore), an expert who specializes in reincarnation. Jacobson believes that Miles’s body is being used by a deceased human who died while still harboring a task they have yet to complete. The sudden shift from a psychological consultation to discussing reincarnation is rather disturbing, and the viewer is left wondering how and why this renowned doctor has her unconventional friend on speed dial. Sarah, as expected, rejects this explanation at first and storms off.
Sarah is, however, later convinced of the possession after finding the body of their missing dog while Miles exclaims that it was his fault. For a scene intended to shift the tone of the plot, this one was rather long. Not only that, but it’s easy to guess early on that Sarah is about to find the body of the missing dog. Even so, the scene tries to be long, drawn-out and suspenseful: It fails miserably.
However, the light used in the scene is especially captivating. The aesthetic is dark, and the use of shadows is the only reason this scene has even a tiny hint of substance and suspense. Particularly, the shadows that are cast across the characters’ faces give a sinister vibe.
The cinematography also helps distract from the sluggish pace of the scene. The focus on the gory details creates an unsettling feeling. This is also the case throughout the rest of the movie, as the cinematography picks up where the script falls short. The dark, thrilling vibe continues with the use of muted, dark colors and shadows.
But even the cinematography could not help bring suspense to the climax. After discovering their dead family pet, Sarah allows Jacobson to meet with Miles. The treatment with Jacobson does not go well, as the person using Miles’ body threatens to frame Jacobson for child abuse, an unnecessary detail for the development of the plot. The sudden foul words coming out of Miles’ mouth seem out of character. Even though Miles is being used by another person, the tone of Miles’ voice does not change, and it simply comes off as a little boy saying words he should not know about. While Miles spits terrible profanities, Jacobson retaliates and accuses Miles of being insane. This dialogue feels badly written and barely thought out. The exchange is cliche and adds no substance to the situation or the characters.
The plot itself is promising, and the storyline is interesting, but the script is filled with cliches and is very easy to predict. The dialogue comes off as amateur and simple, but the cinematography is incredible and almost makes up for the film’s shortcomings. The movie is filled with intense shots and haunting use of atmosphere. These factors work together to redeem some aspects of “The Prodigy” but can’t save it entirely.
“The Prodigy” is an enjoyable movie for a regular movie-goer. However, for avid horror fans, this movie is extremely dull. Even with the beautiful shots and the interesting plot, the movie was muddied by its predictability.