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Movie Review

Talulah always knew there was something wrong with that kid. Dogs just have a nose for this sort of thing. But the boy's parents are a little slower on the uptake.

It's not their fault, really. Sarah and John love 8-year-old Miles, after all—as tenderly and as sacrificially as any parent would. And not many parenting books unpack the risks of a child's body being shared by a dead serial killer. So they weren't too alarmed when Miles began to speak Hungarian in his sleep (which they assumed was gibberish at first). Or when he started asking for paprika on all his dinners.

True, when Miles pounded a fellow student nearly to death with a wrench … well, that was more concerning. Still, nothing a good psychologist and some tender loving care couldn't deal with, right?

But Talulah knows better. She can sense the presence in the boy's body. She growls when that "other thing" is near. She stares at the lad suspiciously when the kid's eating his paprika-loaded dinners.

Too bad that Talulah can't tell her owners all about Miles. Too bad she can't help Sarah and John see or hear or even smell what's going on with their son.

Too bad that Miles found that pair of garden sheers, too.

Positive Elements

It's certainly not John and Sarah's fault that Miles is a little … different. They love their little lad, and even when they see that something's seriously wrong with the kid, they do everything in their power to help him.

At one point, Miles asks to sleep in his mother's bed. He curls up next to Sarah and puts his hand on her shoulder—a strangely threatening gesture, given that Sarah's beginning to see the depths of Miles' "sickness."

"Will you always love me, no matter what I do?" Miles says.

Sarah—filled with fear and revulsion, but maternal love and compassion as well—says, "Yes, Miles. I will always love you." That's a seriously nice sentiment, and true as well. Too bad that Miles isn't always Miles.

Spiritual Content

Demon possession is soooo 2015, apparently. Though evil, possessed children have been a staple of horror flicks for decades, this film takes the more Eastern, vaguely New Agey tack of reincarnation. We get a quick mini-lecture on its popularity throughout much of the world, and we hear that it's "only foreign to Western minds."

Dr. Arthur Jacobson is the first to truly recognize Miles' condition for what it is. He's described as an "aging hippie" living off his inheritance. But he's also an expert in reincarnation and tells stories that, he hopes, prove its veracity.

He first meets Sarah, incidentally, in an office where we can see an old Gothic church outside. Eventually, Arthur convinces Sarah to bring Miles in for a hypnosis session, where Arthur hopes to peel back time and discover the other guy living in Miles' body.

Sexual Content

Alas for Arthur, Miles—or rather the guy inside Miles—is a step ahead. This so-called regression therapy seems to work, but Edward (the serial killer inhabiting Miles) tells Arthur that he took some drugs out of Arthur's medicine cabinet and took them—and picked some pubic hairs off Arthur's toilet and stuck them in his teeth, too. If Arthur doesn't back off, Edward will say that Miles fell asleep in the office (because of the drugs in his system) and woke up as Arthur was sexually abusing him. If Arthur dares deny it, a blood test will prove that Miles was suspiciously drugged.

In flashback, we see Edward—apparently completely naked, gunned down by police. (Critical parts are strategically covered.)

Violent Content

Edward is a brutal killer. We see evidence of that in a flashback to when he had his own body. His last would-be victim escapes and is found along the side of the road, missing a hand. When Edward is shot and killed (bullets bloodily perforating his torso), he's holding that missing hand, now gray and beginning to rot. We're told the missing hands were Edward's killing calling card. We're also told, repeatedly, that he removed the hands before he killed his victims. We see several pictures of bloodied, disfigured corpses and their disembodied hands.

Once he takes up residence inside Miles (when the boy is just a newborn), Edward starts relatively slowly. We Miles as a toddler crush a spider in his bare hands. He takes the wrench and pounds his classmate with it. (Most of the actual blows, at least in this case, are just suggested.) He also tricks his babysitter to walk down the basement stairs and step on a broken glass bottle: A massive shard of glass (along with several smaller ones) bloodily embeds itself in her food, and she has to pull it out.

And when his "gibberish" is translated from its native Hungarian, we learn the little boy was apparently speaking to a past victim—threatening to cut her eyes out if she didn't stop crying.

When the family's dog goes missing, John—Miles' father—takes Miles out to help him search. Miles creepily speculates that maybe the dog was hit by a car. He says that when dogs die, they like to die alone. "We all have to go sometime," Miles says, turning to his dad. "Even you."

We don't see Miles kill the dog. But when Sarah follows a fly infestation down to the basement, where she finds the animal's bloody corpse (minus its paws) hidden underneath a work table. (She keeps the corpse around to show her husband, and so we also see it again.)

A woman is stabbed several times, a knife ripping across her midsection and stabbing the palm of her hand. She does not survive. Someone else is stabbed in the side while driving: The car hurtles into a tree, and we later see the victim lying in a hospital bed. (Doctors say they'll keep the victim in a coma for several months, then determine if the victim has any brain damage.) Two people are shot and killed.

Miles tells a social worker that someone is "hurting" him. Sarah initially seems to suspect John, who was himself physically abused by his own father. John's not abusing Miles, but when Miles enrages John at one point, John looks like he's close to physical violence. He spends some nights away from home to "cool down."

Miles plays a violent, shoot-em-up video game (and seems to relish it). Right after he's born, Miles' infant body is dotted with blood matching where Edward's own bullet wounds were.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear one f-word—uttered apparently by the 8-year-old Miles. The s-word is used three times, and we also hear several uses of "h---." God's name is misused twice, and Jesus' name is abused once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Sarah and John go out on a "date night," which consists of them sitting in a car drinking beer. Sarah reminisces about the days when they were "kidless, drunk all the time and everything was so much fun." John says, "Well, we're still drunk all the time."

We see another character drink wine. The glass bottle that the babysitter steps on appears to have once held beer.

Other Negative Elements

Miles is very advanced for his age. Is his intelligence native to Miles? Is it part of Edward? Who knows, but Edward uses it to his advantage, designing a contraption to listen in on Sarah and John as they talk. Several people lie to each other—sometimes with the best intentions, and sometimes not.


Horror movies are built on subverting our highest ideals and playing on our deepest fears. So in a way, The Prodigy knows just where to aim: After all, perhaps no ideal is more celebrated than a mother's love for her child. Perhaps no fear is deeper than the thought that something's seriously broken in our child—something that we have no idea how to fix.

If the great theologian Augustine was around today, plunking down money for seedy horror films, he might draw an interesting parallel between movies like The Prodigy and how he believed the devil himself works: Unable to create, Satan can only twist and pervert. God's gifts are turned into the world's temptations and troubles and sins.

Perhaps that's why movies like The Prodigy get under our skin. It's by design: The plot twists something so good and turns it into something so horrible. The fact that Sarah and John love Miles so much compounds evil and horror they must deal with as the story wears on.

But The Prodigy, for all its unabashed cruelty and grotesquery, is less effective as a horror movie than it could've been. Perhaps that's because it tries to craft a coherent supernatural rationale for Edward's reincarnation while wholly misunderstanding the spiritual tradition of its own trope.

You see, Edward is no demon, no hellish creature: He's merely a killer whose life force has mystically, mysteriously invaded an innocent child. But that spiritually incoherent plot device doesn't jibe with any religion that I'm aware of that teaches reincarnation. And that inconsistency makes The Prodigy an even more muddled mess—albeit a scary mess peppered with jump scenes and ominous foreboding, but lacking any sort of point.

The Prodigy is indeed horrific, and in the worst sorts of ways. This horror film kills with abandon, mutilates with gusto and has absolutely nothing at all to say.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Taylor Schilling as Sarah; Jackson Robert Scott as Miles; Paul Fauteux as Edward; Colm Feore as Arthur Jacobson; Brittany Allen as Margaret St. James; Peter Mooney as John Oluniké; Adeliyi as Rebecca


Nicholas McCarthy ( )


Orion Pictures



Record Label



In Theaters

February 8, 2019

On Video

May 7, 2019

Year Published



Paul Asay

Content Caution

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