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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Prodigy (2019) (Blu-ray)
The Prodigy (2019) (Blu-ray)
MGM // R // May 7, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted June 10, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Nicholas McCarthy's The Prodigy certainly does not reinvent the "bad seed" genre, but it is a relatively effective thriller perfect for renting. A young couple's son is born the same night a notorious serial killer is gunned down by police, and the man's soul inhabits a part of the young boy's brain. The film poses some engaging questions on what, exactly, this young child knows and how much of him, if any, is truly the innocent boy birthed to loving parents. Nicely shot and released under the reborn Orion Pictures label, The Prodigy offers a chilly narrative from writer Jeff Buhler, a strong central performance by Taylor Schilling ("Orange is the New Black") and enough slow-burn chills to warrant a viewing.

You do not learn much about serial killer Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux), other than that he cuts his female victims' hands off and that he exhibits heterochromia; the condition of having different colored eyes. He dies in August 2010 as John (Peter Mooney) and Sarah Blume (Schilling) welcome their son Miles (Jackson Robert Scott in the majority of the film) into the world. Miles also exhibits heterochromia, begins talking at an extremely young age and proves wildly intelligent. Things turn more sinister as Miles turns eight: He plays a vicious prank on a babysitter, injuring her, suddenly craves paprika, and speaks a rare Hungarian dialect in his sleep. Scott gives the boy a wide-eyed innocence undercut with a cunning awareness that is often disconcerting. After Miles assaults a classmate at school, Sarah takes him to hypnotist Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore), who attempts to begin a "past life regression" and determine what dark entity lies within Miles's brain.

I appreciate dad John's reaction to Miles's frightening behavior. The man simply leaves the house, telling wife Sarah he is uncomfortable staying under the same roof as the boy. The Prodigy wastes little time letting viewers know Miles is evil and that Scarka is the culprit thanks to some creepy shots of the grown serial killer interspersed with those of young Miles. That entity has no issue coming to the front of Miles's subconscious, even informing Jacobson that he better keep quiet to Sarah unless he wants "Miles" to tell her he awoke hypnosis to Jacobson sexually assaulting him. Savage! Sarah gets an idea about what could stop these horrible events in a narrative turn that I was not quite expecting, and the build to this gives McCarthy plenty of time to stage quiet dread in the halls of the family's darkened home.

There are some weaker jump scares amid a number of genuinely creepy moments, like a shot of Miles's hand travelling up his mom's shoulder after he asks to sleep in her bed following a nightmare. The most effective idea The Prodigy has, and lightly explores, is questioning which actions are Miles's, which are Scarka's and does the real Miles even exist at all. This is discussed cruelly during the film's climax, and, despite the lack of character development of that man, viewers discover empathy is not one of his character traits. After a few surprises, the film's ending unfortunately falls back into genre formula, which I expected. Even so, this is a lean, entertaining thriller that at least makes its trek through familiar territory entertaining.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is clear and crisp throughout, and film's cold colors are striking. Fine-object detail is good, as is object texture. Black levels and shadow detail excel, highlights never bloom and skin tones are accurate. The film looks good in motion, and I noticed only a hint of noise.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers the appropriate horror trappings, and ambient and chiller effects like creaks, slams and shrieks move through the sound scape. Dialogue is clean and balanced, and the score is integrated appropriately. Spanish and French dubs are available, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD and an HD digital copy. The discs are packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover with eye-catching artwork. Extras include an Audio Commentary by Nicholas McCarthy; three useless Promotional Featurettes (4:00 total/HD); and an Image Gallery.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

While its genre thrills are familiar, The Prodigy is nicely shot, with enough chills and surprises to make it worth a rental. Rent It.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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