With tiresome jump scares, bad acting and untied plot strands, this tale of a disturbed child genius is a cliche-ridden stinker
Some films are so uncompromisingly bad that their awfulness triggers a spasm of second-guessing and self-doubt. Is it irony? Is it comedy? Is it some form of pop-art primitivism? No. It’s an unscary scary movie that quickly abandons the very thing that might have made it interesting (ie, the disturbing quality of childhood genius – which is to say, the thing in the title) in favour of tiresome jump scares, bad child acting, bad grownup acting and untied plot strands designed to facilitate a terrible franchise, like The Conjuring or Insidious.
Taylor Schilling (from Orange Is the New Black) plays Sarah, who gives birth to a child at the exact cosmically malign moment that a Hungarian-speaking serial killer is shot dead by cops. This kid becomes eight-year-old Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) who is adorable but given to weird mood swings and staring up at adults through his lashes in the manner of demon kids everywhere. Miles has violent episodes that he can’t remember afterwards. He speaks Hungarian dialect in his sleep. Yikes. And the genuinely disquieting possibilities of his precocious cleverness are just forgotten about in favour of standard-issue horror cliches.
The Prodigy review – unscary demon-kid horror story