The Prodigy (3 stars)

The Prodigy

Taylor Schilling stars in a watchable possession horror featuring a smattering of effective scares

Horror is the most dependably lucrative genre in film; fans will brave no-name casts, cheap productions and uninspired ideas in the hope of a few decent scares. Nicholas McCarthy's The Prodigy offers a more upscale package: a familiar face from TV (Taylor Schilling from Orange Is the New Black), a scary kid (Jackson Robert Scott, who played the ill-fated Georgie in 2017's It) and a familiar premise – could an innocent child be possessed by a serial killer?

After one of his victims manages to escape, cops track down and kill multiple murderer Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux); on the same night, Sarah Blume (Schilling) gives birth to a baby. Eight years later, Sarah's son Miles (Scott) has remarkable abilities, but nasty things happen to unwary babysitters or dogs crossing his path. Sarah seeks assistance from Arthur (Colm Feore), a reincarnation specialist who offers to hypnotise Miles and regress him back to a previous self. Not surprisingly, the experiment does not work out well, and Sarah is wracked with doubt as to whether her son might harbour the soul of a killer.

The Prodigy sounds like a lazy smooshing together of The Omen and Child's Play, but it's performed with a straight face, with minimal but occasionally impactful jump scares. There are no surprises here, but McCarthy (The Pact) effectively mines the central conflict of Sarah's love for her son becoming soured by her realisation of what he's capable of. Schilling and Scott are better than the material requires, and there are even enough loose ends for a sequel or two. Without rewriting the book on horror, The Prodigy brings welcome restraint to a potentially silly story.

General release from Fri 15 Mar.

The Prodigy

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US / Canada
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy
  • Cast: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Colm Feore

Sarah (Schilling) has a child on the night a multiple murderer is killed by the police; eight years later, she begins to suspect son has the soul of a killer. There are no surprises, but Schilling, and Scott as the troubled Miles, are better than they need to be, and it brings welcome restraint to a silly story.