What if your child wasn’t your child? Of all the fears that weigh on parents, the idea of your child being controlled and changed by an outside force is a huge and terrifying thought. In THE PRODIGY, opening on February 8, Taylor Schilling plays a mother whose life goes very dark as her son appears to be possessed.
Schilling has already dealt with some kinds of real-world horror as the long-time lead on “Orange Is the New Black.” (Prison isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.) But THE PRODIGY is an all-new avenue for her — here’s why the film is basically the creepily entertaining version of every parent’s nightmare.
“Miles Is Dangerous”
Jackson Robert Scott plays Miles, an incredibly intelligent little boy whose nature turns wicked. His mother, Sarah (Schilling), suspects there’s something supernatural affecting him.
Trailers for the film don’t show much actual violence, though there are certainly threats and suggestions — that image of Miles casually carrying a giant red wrench through a classroom is freakishly ominous. And the shot of him deliberately crushing a spider is low-key awful, in part because it is paired with voiceover talking about how impressive the boy is. (The spider-killing shot also echoes a moment in CHRONICLE that showed just how twisted Dane DeHaan’s character had become.)
Nature or Nurture?
Some of the terror of THE PRODIGY is the idea that Sarah has somehow failed or corrupted her son herself. It’s one thing for your child to go bad — it’s another for it to happen because of your own actions. Is the idea of supernatural possession just a cover for the fact that something far more typical has affected the boy? Is Miles’s impurity actually Sarah’s fault?
THE PRODIGY was originally called DESCENDANT, and that info combines with something that caught our eye in the trailers. While a man who appears to be Miles’s father appears in the opening of the first full trailer, ads for the film are edited in a way that makes the primary relationship appear to be between Sarah and Miles. So, what happens to dad?
Images in the original teaser trailer raise even more questions. There are shots of a woman locked in what looks like an old shed and the same person fleeing through the woods. Is that person related to whatever force possesses Miles? And who is the older man who appears in his place in a bloodcurdling moment at the end of the teaser? Maybe Miles really is possessed!
House Of Horrors
Nicholas McCarthy directs THE PRODIGY; he has scared us before with films THE PACT and AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, both of which dealt with family secrets and houses full of uneasy spirits. In this movie, McCarthy creates spaces that seem soft and welcoming on the surface — but these homey areas quickly become nightmarish as Miles’s malign nature exerts its influence.
We’ve all experienced a space that feels ugly and oppressive when the people inside it go sour, and everything in the footage from THE PRODIGY tells us that Sarah has a fight ahead of her. There’s no refuge in other places, either. While the therapist played by Colm Feore probably meant his office to be approachable, in this context it looks like a space where bad stuff could happen. And the school spaces we see Miles haunting look cold, even bleak.
This is all just based on the advance looks at THE PRODIGY, which has many more frights in store. We’re excited — and a little freaked out, to be honest — at the prospect of finding out exactly what’s wrong with Miles.
THE PRODIGY opens on February 8.