- on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 09:59
- by Loron Hays
Children like games. We all know this to be true. Sometimes; however, they never want the games to end. Eleanor (Savannah Liles in a standout performance), the child prodigy at the center of this science fiction film, keeps playing one for her life and the pieces on the board in front of her are as real as you and me. Turns out, though, that everyone has a limit.
Sometimes the games do, in fact, need to end.
Deploying a clever first-move advantage, Prodigy quickly controls the board with a commanding presence and a know-how that usually comes with experience and age. Considering that this is the first feature-length film from Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal, who wrote and directed the film, that’s damn impressive indeed. The intense and twisted tale at the heart of their film is a disturbing reminder of just how vulnerable we are when kindness gives way to cruelty.
Keep your brain switched on for this one. You won’t even want to blink through the opening credits. So much information is given to us through grainy family videos that you almost need to see them again at the end of the film in order to put all of the scattered game pieces back to their proper places. Prodigy, from beginning to end, is an understated game of consequences and strategy.
Friendly Chutes and Ladders this is not. The challenge at the dead center of Prodigy concerns itself with the very genesis of evil.
Psychological terror, especially in film, is difficult to pull off in a consistent manner, yet the momentum this film greets us with means we can't help but fall under its spell. It opens in a park on a sunny day. Fonda (Richard Neil in another strong performance), a child psychologist, is playing chess when a mysterious woman who asks him, essentially, if he’s ready, approaches him. Olivia (Jolene Anderson) works for the government and she has a very dangerous person she needs him evaluate. Time is of the essence.
It is a child. Her name is Eleanor. People call her Ellie. And, once Fonda is deep inside the secret government facility where she is being kept, it becomes more than obvious that the military and the government are absolutely terrified of what she can do. Birch (Emilio Palame) wants her killed. Regardless of what happens to her, they don’t see her as a child dealing with any trauma outside of the one she causes. They see her as a specimen. And what do governments and the scientists who work for them do with specimens? That’s right. Chop them up.
Fonda is immediately taken aback by what he sees when he enters where Ellie is being held for interrogation. She’s rigid and emotionless; her above-average intelligence is dominating her entire brain. As a result, there are no emotions. She is cold and calculating. She can’t use her hands due to the restraining devices keeping her in place.
Yet, Fonda can’t help but only see a child sitting in front of him. This is where paying close attention to the beginning comes into play…
Ellie has a gift and it is one that kills. She is, as Fonda will discover during his series of interviews with her, a 9-year-old psychopathic genius who can manipulate people and objects at her mind’s will. And her defenses are up, up, up. It is all too easy for her to control her telekinetic abilities and it terrifies the men in the other room, just behind the glass, who desperately want to see her dead and on an operating table.
Co-starring David Linski, Harvey Q. Johnson, and Aral Gribble, Prodigy quickly amps up the tension and the destruction as one man finds himself trying to outmaneuver several opponents in the deadly game he’s just agreed to play. He will be tested by a fate that seems already written in order to save lives.
Prodigy, an intense black-and-white feature film provides enough edge-of-your-seat shock to remind one of the awe and the mystery found in the more cerebral episodes of The Outer Limits, makes for great late night entertainment. It forces us to pay attention and then rewards us for doing exactly that. Prodigy is hard science fiction that stays with you long after the closing credits. Ellie wouldn’t have it any other way.
Prodigy is the late night special at the Kansas City FilmFest and will be screened Friday, April 7 at 9:30pm and again on Saturday, April 8 at 10pm. Both screenings will be held in the Cinemark Palace At The Plaza. Tickets are on sale now at http://kcfilmfest.org/prodigy/.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 80 mins
Director: Alex Haughey, Brian Vidal
Writer: Alex Haughey, Brian Vidal
Cast: Richard Neil, Savannah Liles, Jolene Andersen
Genre: Sci-fi | thriller
Memorable Movie Quote: "You don't find this suspicious that she's telling us exactly what we need to hear?"
Official Site: http://www.prodigy-movie.com/
Release Date: March 4, 2017 (Cinequest Film Festival)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: October 11, 2016
Synopsis: An unconventional psychologist and a dangerous young genius engage in a chess match of wits, with the child's fate hanging in the balance.
No details avaiable.