Film review: Taylor Schilling works hard but horror The Prodigy is short on shocks

Jackson Robert Scott and Taylor Schilling in The Prodigy
Damon Smith

A PSYCHOPATH lives to slay another day by possessing the body of a cherubic eight-year-old boy in director Nicholas McCarthy's hoary horror.

Propagated in the same blood-soaked ground as The Bad Seed and The Omen, The Prodigy delivers a few cheap jolts as it pits a distraught mother against her demonic moppet in present-day Philadelphia.

A couple of memorable moments, like the boy's babysitter (Elisa Moolecherry) removing a large sliver of glass from her foot after she walks into a trap laid by her young charge, are fleeting diversions from a conventional and pedestrian plot.

Pacing is uneven – the plodding narrative accelerates without warning through gore-smeared interludes – and characterisation is weak, starving us of strong emotional ties to the central figures as they make sense of their dire predicament.

Orange Is The New Black star Taylor Schilling works tirelessly to add emotional depth to her stricken parent that isn't on the pages of Jeff Buhler's script.

Meanwhile young co-star Jackson Robert Scott lasts considerably longer here than he did as ill-fated Georgie, who chased a paper boat into a storm drain in the chilling remake of Stephen King's It.

Horror fans, hungry for a stylish and original jaunt into the unknown, will have to look elsewhere for skin-crawling satisfaction.

Serial killer Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux) dies in a hail of police bullets at a secluded Ohio farmhouse.

His death coincides with John Blume (Peter Mooney) and wife Sarah (Schilling) welcoming their first child into the world hundreds of miles away in Pennsylvania.

The boy, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott), exhibits disturbing behaviour from an early age and speaks fluent Hungarian in his sleep. When he turns eight, the youngster temporarily slips into a fugue state and attacks a classmate with a wrench.

"Sometimes when I leave my body, bad things happen!" Miles whimpers to his shocked mother.

In desperation, Sarah takes her boy to psychologist Elaine Strasser (Paula Boudreau), who refers the Blumes to Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore). He is an expert on reincarnation and believes little Miles could be a vessel for a tormented soul.

Sarah is initially reluctant to digest Arthur's outlandish theory but Miles's outbursts force the mother to contemplate the possibility that she is sharing her home with a displaced spirit.

The Prodigy telegraphs its grisly intentions and doesn't deviate from a well-trodden path of predictable shocks. The fate of the family's dog is sealed before its first bark.

At 92 minutes, running time feels bloated and a protracted finale could be trimmed without diminishing the lacklustre impact.

THE PRODIGY (15, 92 mins) Horror/Thriller/Romance. Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Peter Mooney, Colm Feore, Paul Fauteux, Paula Boudreau, Brittany Allen. Director: Nicholas McCarthy.

RATING: 5/10

Released: March 15 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

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