The Prodigy Explained-Reincarnation Is The Key
All things reincarnation and The Prodigy’s fresh take on The Bad Seed.
courtesy of Rafy/Orion pictures
I’d normally not spoil the whole movie, but it opens with this reveal. It is no secret, no twist, no long suspected truth. The reincarnation angle hits you within the first couple of minutes. It is what happens in the last chapter of the film that the twist happens. This evil kid story opens with the explanation for Miles’ incredible intellect, and thousand-yard stare we come to know and dread. He was born at the same time as a serial killer with a love of right hands. In much the same way as the Lakeshore Strangler was magically transported into the Chucky doll in Child’s Play, the Thrash Creek Slasher is reincarnated in the body of the newly born Miles. As you can imagine sharing a body with a serial killer is not conducive to becoming a good person. We watch as Miles grows up and displays behavior and intellect well beyond his years.
At first, Sarah(Schilling) and John(Peter Mooney), who is given very little to do beyond acting frustrated, are thrilled with their genius son, but over time Miles abhorrent behavior begins to stymie their hopes for his future. His big brain comes with a whole lot of off-putting actions. He terrorizes classmates, babysitters, the family dog, even his folks in some subtle and not so subtle ways( read: killing). Taylor Schilling does an admirable job portraying a mother who is in way over her head. Her fear and despair are palpable. This is a parent who loves unconditionally even if it means she loves a killer. We see her evolution from doting Bulldozer Mom to resigned killer in the span of an hour and a half. Sarah’s reaction to little Mile’s loss in the staring contest foreshadows her eventual descent into madness. She is the sort of mother who holds firm to the idea her child can do no wrong. I love my kids, but I’m not killing anybody in the hopes that somehow, someway the other soul living in their body will depart peacefully. The dude has left a string of dead bodies behind him, so it’s safe to say he will not go quietly into that good night.
Her emotional reaction and Scott’s unemotional demeanor are what makes this movie work. Her ultimate decision to help Miles kill the only surviving victim of Edward Scarka(Paul Fauteux) is an agonizing one. Miles’ blackmailed therapist convinces her that is the only way to save Miles. She believes if Scarka completes his unfinished work he will leave Miles and move on. Her final realization that the murder was unnecessary as her child had been gone for some time, and her desperate attempt to stop him is punctuated by her excruciating resolution. The nihilistic ending is as dark as it gets. Sarah is shot trying to kill Miles, and he will be put into the foster system where he will have a fully stocked pond of victims to choose from. A buffet of homicidal delights.
Reincarnation is an interesting concept. From Latin lineage, the word translates to “entering the flesh again”. It is the philosophical and religious belief that life never ends it just changes forms. The soul or consciousness of the deceased person enters a new living body. In ancient times Taoism, The Druids, and Germanic Pagans all prescribed to some form of rebirth. Hinduism and Buddhism maintain reincarnation as a major tenet of the religion. The Hindu’s assert the soul lives again in a new body, where Buddhists believe the “self” does not exist only the Karma accumulated in the lifetime of the person until actualization that no self ever exists is achieved which is called Nirvana. The Unity Church, a Christian institute also teaches reincarnation. The Jewish faith teaches a form of rebirth stemming from the five levels of souls in the Kabbalah. The ancient Greek philosophers Pythagoras and Plato believed in a derivation of reincarnation more akin to rebirth or metamorphosis. The Inuit of Greenland and Nunavut also believe in spiritual rebirth. The historical fiction series The Terror on AMC features one form of this reincarnation as The Tuunbaq, and Lady Silence’s father are linked in life, and possibly his death is the catalyst for the violent attacks on the crew. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the forms reincarnation takes today.
In the movie, the therapist and reincarnation expert Arthur Jacobson explains to Sarah that Miles shares a body with Scarka. Proof of this is Miles different eye colors, inexplicable Hungarian language skills, near genius intelligence not to mention his murderous tendencies. He also explains to Sarah that at age eight the more dominant soul will forever take charge and eradicate the other. There is some actual evidence to support this theory. Most accounts of reincarnation are from children between two and six years of age and stop after the age of eight. Although anecdotal, it does fit Miles’ timeline. The phenomenon of deja vu is attributed to reincarnation as well. The previous soul’s experiences are remembered as deja vu instead of fully formed memories. Additionally, violent deaths lend themselves to reincarnation more readily. Scarka’s death is undoubtedly violent and even more intriguing for a sequel, Sarah could be reincarnated into someone, and she becomes hellbent on ending Miles/Scarka permanently. That could be fun to watch!
Reincarnation researcher Dr. Ian Stevenson dedicated his career to proving reincarnation exists. He was a psychiatrist who worked for The University of Virginia for fifty years where he became world-renowned for his work. In his lifetime he investigated over 3,000 cases of reincarnation. His scientific methodology was precise and exhaustive which provided authority to his claims. He documented both memories and behaviors as well as physical manifestations of the previous life. Birthmarks and defects corresponded with memories of the death of the reincarnated person. Tastes, desires, phobias, and philosophical differences can be seen in most of the children studied. For example, if in a past life the person died by drowning, the child would have a fear of water. Children who would be culturally incapable of experiencing things like alcohol or certain foods would have a predilection to them. Case after case revealed deformities that corresponded with the death of the past life. It remains to be seen whether the memory was influenced by the defect or actual proof of the phenomenon. One story that is especially compelling is the case of Swarnlata Mishra. This young girl in 1948 claimed to be someone who had lived in a small village one hundred miles from her home. Mishra was so specific and adamant about her recollections she eventually was taken to meet the relatives of her past life. They tried to disprove her claim by introducing strangers as relatives. She immediately knew the impostors from her past life family.
The Prodigy is by no means the first film to tackle reincarnation. Science fiction and horror lend themselves very well to this theory. Perhaps the best film to do so is the 1991 chiller Dead Again. Visually it is stunning, and it is one of the best examples of this trope mixed with a fantastic twist you won’t see coming. Cloud Atlas is the most thoughtful of the movies dealing with this. It is an epic, sweeping, sometimes meandering tale of philosophy come to life. It can be confusing and plodding, but it is deeply moving. If you are in the mood for something less heady but just as tear-jerking go see A Dog’s Purpose. Don’t judge me, I love my dog.
Surprisingly, The Prodigy is pretty scary, especially for a February throwaway release. The Prodigy had everything and the kitchen sink in it with hints of Audrey Rose, Final Destination, Ring, and The Omen. Yes it was a little clunky in places. and yes the pacing could get a little haywire, but at the end of the day, this deadly eight year is just plain frightening. There is something bone-chilling about watching a little kid say the kinds of foul things you only expect from the vilest adult. As creepy kids go, Miles(Jackson Robert Scott) is one of the best. He blurs the line between innocent, gifted child and sociopathic killer through the whole movie. You never quite know who’s in charge. The movie is a tension-laden slow march through a haunted house. You know you are there to be scared, and you even know where some of the scares will come from, but you squeal every time anyway. This is a good movie with an original take on the trope, some excellent acting from Scott and Schilling, and one dark as hell ending. Go see it and then start working on your Karma. You never know when it will be judged.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.