The best you can say for “The Prodigy” is that it’s an efficient shock-and-fright delivery device.
Cold, clinical and mechanical, the jolts — cheap shocks created via a quick edit and sudden SHRIEK on the soundtrack — are timed out, 8-10 minutes apart.
The scenario is strictly horror boilerplate — a brutal serial killer dies at the same time a little boy is born prematurely. “Reincarnation,” says the shrink-approved expert (Colm Feore) to the boy’s increasingly desperate mom (Taylor Schilling of “Orange is the New Black”).
And she, uh, buys it. Few questions asked.
She was so proud. Her baby, Miles, has “David Bowie eyes” (two different colors). “He’s special” with intelligence “off the charts,” the experts tell her and husband John (Peter Mooney).
Yes, he’s a tad anti-social and creepy. But when he hits age 8, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) is taking a monkey wrench (literally) to classmates, booby-trapping the baby sitter and getting growled at by the family dog, who doesn’t know WHO is in that kid’s body.
A dead giveaway in such movies about malevolent kids? Miles is a little too “into” Halloween.
The various children playing Miles, with Jackson Robert Scott being the main one but younger David Kohlsmith making an exceptionally creepy impression, are convincing.
Schilling has to carry the picture, and she doesn’t give us much in the line of pathos, empathy, terror or love, the emotional gamut her character runs. That turns “The Prodigy” heartless. No wonder her kid’s a mess.
I found “The Prodigy” to be a pitiless experience, maddeningly illogical in the ways the parents (Mom more than Dad) accept the abrupt “treatment” and “study” changing to “This kid’s a killer reincarnated” “science” and excuse the kid’s moments of violence and amorality — “It’s OK. It was an accident.”
Still, the frights, with Mom seeing the hand-chopping serial killer’s face (Paul Fauteux) on her little boy’s body, the stabbings and threats of worse to come (hilariously foreshadowed to death) deliver the requisite pulse-stopping punch.
If that’s all you’re hoping for in a horror picture, fine. If not, you’ve been warned. Yes, there’s a dog in the cast.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing and bloody images, a sexual reference and brief graphic nudity
Cast: Jackson Robert Scott, Taylor Schilling, Colm Feore, Brittany Allen
Credits: Directed by Nicholas McCarthy, script by Jeff Buhler. An Orion release
Running time: 1:32