I never saw 2016’s box office bomb Morgan, but I’d wager a guess that Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal’s Prodigy is an independently produced version of that. In this film, shot under High Noon California, a psychologist is scheduled to meet with a young patient. A simple session is anticipated, but after being put through military clearance, Dr. Fonda (Richard Neil) discovers that his patient is an insanely smart and excessively perceptive child being held against her will in a dark and dank holding room. Soon after their sessions begin, Dr. Fonda learns that the prodigy, Ellie (Savannah Liles), is more dangerous than he originally thought, and breaking through her mental barriers holds the key to her survival, or her use as a weapon. Co-written and co-directed by Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal, Prodigy stars Richard Neil, Jolene Andersen, Emilio Palame, David Linski, Harvey Johnson, Aral Gribble and Savannah Liles. A film where every question holds a risky repercussion, Prodigy is a suspenseful, psychologically exhausting flick you don’t want to miss.
First and foremost, I’d like to say that Prodigy is the perfect vehicle to shuttle Savannah Liles into the limelight. At such a young age, she already boasts guest starring roles in FX staple “American Horror Story” and Nickelodeon favorite “Henry Danger.” The script, and the material found within, is so mature and so hard to grasp, I’m surprised that Savannah was able to learn all of her lines and emote them as if she actually suffered through her character’s harsh memories. She plays a fickle sociopath with such intensity that she continues to burn the torch for creepy kid movies like The Omen and The Orphan. And, damn, is Ellie off-putting in an increasingly sinister way. While all of the lead and supporting cast members were fantastic and charismatic in their performances, I was obviously most drawn to Savannah and her portrayal as Ellie. When Ellie’s more supernatural abilities start to display themselves, it gives her an extra layer of uncertainty because you start to realize – she really is capable of anything. And, honestly, so is the actress behind the character.
Continuing on with the theme of things being off-putting, from the start Prodigy took something simple and turned it into something that makes your stomach turn. You’ll start to realize this during the opening credits. But, you have to wonder, why are we naturally scared by humans who are more intelligent than we are, to the point of being alien-like in nature? I think, in the case of movies, it’s down to how society and establishments prop them up to be just that – otherworldly. The production team behind Prodigy is guilty of this too, in a good way – of course, and the tactic reads on screen like the time period belonged to the 1940’s. Maybe it was the military, and secret government experiments, but Prodigy felt like it exists decades out of its own timeline, in a world that’s just begging to be shattered by a tragic event… with Ellie at the center. Cinematographers Hisonni Johnson and Genaro Marzan, and everyone else working behind-the-scenes, worked diligently to showcase the proper environment for the character of Ellie to thrive in. Fitting original scores, theater quality audio, and plain, dark walls with yellow florescent lights. If you walked in to see a girl strapped to a chair, in this environment, you’d want to turn and run away as well!
Produced by Alex Haughey and edited by Brian Vidal, Prodigy is an expertly crafted thriller that effortlessly mixes ominous military tests with psychological terror and science fiction. There’s also some good drama, if you read between the lines. Beating hearts in a movie like this? Yup! When I look for any downsides, all that comes to mind is there’s a lot of talking. It’s all pretty much talking, actually. However, with every conversation, a new mystery is uncovered, with every consultation, the darkness creeps an inch closer; resulting in a massive dose of anxious claustrophobia. With an ending that was much better than I expected, Prodigy is an independent science fiction flick with much more going for it than any typical Hollywood thriller. Better story, enthralling acting, and a third eye open to creating atmosphere, Prodigy is destined to become one of the best scifi films of 2018. Take my word for it, and stream this movie on March 13, when Gravitas Ventures releases it to VOD. And, if you’re an iTunes user, the film is 50% off now until March 12. Start your stream, here. Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.