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"THE PRODIGY"
(2019) (Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: A couple must contend with the possibility that the reincarnated soul of a serial killer might be inside their eight-year-old son's body.
PLOT:
For Sarah (TAYLOR SCHILLING) and John Bloom (PETER MOONEY), they've gotten used to their 8-year-old son, Miles (JACKSON ROBERT SCOTT), being intellectually advanced for his age. But when he starts acts oddly at night -- including speaking in a foreign language in his sleep -- and then attacks a classmate with a large plumber's wrench, they enlist the aid of child psychologist Elaine Strasser (PAULA BOUDREAU) to find out what's wrong. And with the help of specialist Arthur Jacobson (COLM FEORE), an unsettling possibility arises -- that Miles might have a reincarnated soul sharing his body and wanting to return to resolve some unfinished business.

Little do they initially realize that it's that of serial killer Edward Scarka (PAUL FAUTEUX) who was shot dead almost at the same time as Miles was born, all due to one of his victims, Margaret St. James (BRITTANY ALLEN), managing to escape. As Sarah and John initially dismiss and then try to come to grips with the fact that their son might be battling a reincarnated soul that wants control of his body, they must contend with the dangers that Miles presents to them and others.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Every once in a while you'll hear about a child prodigy who excels at some sort of skill -- be that music, chess, math or what have you -- that no kid their age should be able to do. Heck, that applies to most adults as well, all of which makes one wonder how that's possible. And that's especially true when said child's parents don't exhibit the same degree of skill or sometimes even any experience with that.

Some might argue that it's just another variant of nature providing the tools to survive. Of course, there's a fairly vast difference between a baby shark or alligator knowing what to do right from birth and some kid being able to play Beethoven.

Others might believe such kids are somehow channeling the souls of past masters, as if reincarnated from them and retaining their amazing abilities. Whatever the case, it's not only humbling for us mere mortals born with no such factory installed feature to watch such kids demonstrate their prowess, but it's also both fascinating and a bit creepy.

The latter might have been the catalyst for screenwriter Jeff Buhler in writing the script for "The Prodigy." But rather than have the young title character play chess like Bobby Fischer or shred a Stratocaster like Stevie Ray Vaughan, the scribe has decided to have his 8-year-old character proficient in the removal of arms. No, not like a medical surgeon, but rather a serial killer.

Yes, the flick falls squarely into the horror genre and specifically the possession sub-category that's seen its fair share of entries over the decades. Most of those involve the Devil or some demon doing the body hijacking deed (such as the best of the bunch, "The Exorcist") and the vast majority of those keep viewers in the dark for some time about who or what has made the terrible twos, well, more terrible.

Here, Buhler and director Nicholas McCarthy dispense with that mystery right from the get-go as the film opens with a woman (Brittany Allen) escaping the terror of a serial killer (Paul Fauteux) who has a thing for women's hands. He's eventually shot dead, right about the same time our unwitting couple (Taylor Schilling and Peter Mooney) welcome their first child into their lives and the world.

We then see a brief progression of the kid at various ages that stops when he's circled the sun eight times and most everyone has accepted that young Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) is way off the charts in terms of smarts. But then weird and troubling stuff starts happening and two specialists (Colm Feore and Paula Boudreau) eventually believe the boy has a reincarnated soul fighting for control of his body.

What follows is the standard possessed kid storyline along with the usual "haunted house" material of things going bump in the night, the kid talking to no one, a trip or two into the basement and so on. There's little here you haven't seen before (including the main characters doing some boneheaded things -- especially considering what they already know and have seen), but I'll admit the conclusion wasn't what I predicted while watching things unfold and may shock some viewers by its means of setting the stage for "The Prodigy 2" should this prove to be a hit among horror buffs.

There are some decent scares here and there, but as always my litmus test is whether I'm spooked late at night hours or days after having just seen it. And the film does not pass that, unlike, say, William Friedkin's now 46-year-old masterpiece of horror that can still get the goosebumps rising watching young Linda Blair in pure "the devil made me do it" mode. In that same span going forward from now, no one will remember "The Prodigy." That is, unless it comes back reincarnated in a freshly hatched horror offering. This one rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed February 5, 2019 / Posted February 8, 2019


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