Movie Review: The Prodigy
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Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Writer: Jeff Buhler
by Jason Koenigsberg
If you have seen one spooky kid-themed horror movie like The Exorcist (1973) or The Omen (1976), or The Sixth Sense (1999) you have seen em all. At least that is the case with The Prodigy, a tired retread of an overused tool from the horror movie cliche toolbox. This movie has some moments of suspense and tension accompanied by a few solid jump scares but offers nothing new to the genre.
The opening shot is of a house (or barn you cannot tell too clearly from the trees) with some titles that tell us we are in Ohio. The camera pulls in slightly, a hand shoots through the door, unlocks it and then it finally cuts. The first few scenes set up that there was a man holding a woman hostage, she escaped but not before he cut off one of her hands. He gets gunned down by police nude, while at the same time a woman is about to give birth to a child. The film sets up that this baby is born the same minute that the naked man was killed and he returns as the reincarnated baby of a young couple from nearby Pennsylvania. So there is the basic exposition of The Prodigy and anyone who has ever seen a movie will realize that this baby is going to grow up to be a troubled child and evil and mysterious things are about to happen real soon.
Everything else about the movie is pretty standard and by the book for a horror film. The manipulative music score tells the audience how we should feel practically every step of the way… when to be scared, when to be relieved, you never have to think for yourself. The set up is very reminiscent of Child’s Play (1988) and it felt like that movie only with a more serious and solemn tone along with the obvious fact that it is a real child committing heinous acts and not the Chucky doll. One of the most irritating aspects of The Prodigy is that the parents of the evil kid make such stupid decisions when they know their son is in danger and they seem to get more illogical when they realize that their son is not an innocent child but an evil entity trapped inside child’s body. As stated before there are some good genuine moments of fear but The Prodigy completely lost any goodwill it had because of its finale. I felt cheated by the ending where a person shows up out of nowhere with a gun, but don’t worry telling you that does not ruin anything. The Prodigy is set up for a sequel and the producers are banking on this being the next big thing in horror. Let’s hope it is not and a smarter movie comes leaving The Prodigy in cinematic purgatory.
Skip The Prodigy and check out Stir of Echoes (1999), it has all the cliches of the creepy kid horror movie but they all work. It underperformed in theaters since it was released a month after The Sixth Sense, but Stir of Echoes is actually the better movie in my humble opinion. It relied less on a twist and more on its performances and mood.