Prodigy – USA, 2017 – reviews

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‘What do you see?

Prodigy is a 2017 American science fiction paranormal thriller written and directed by Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal. It stars Richard Neil, Savannah Liles, Jolene Anderson, and Emilio Palame.

A psychologist engages a dangerous, young genius in a battle of wits — unaware of the supernatural power the girl possesses, or that her life hangs in the balance…

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Prodigy became available for streaming via Netflix from August 22, 2018.


Thrillers are a tough sub-genre of the horror world to master. The realisation is based on using intellectual dialogue, provoking fear and holding the audience’s attention for the full-length feature. With Prodigy, Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal have created a masterful thriller.

Psychologist Jimmy Fonda (an empathetic Richard Neil) is clearly from old school thinking in his techniques. Slightly dishevelled, weathered-looking and tired, Fonda is recruited by his old friend, government official Olivia. Taken from a page out of The Silence of the Lambs, Fonda is brought to a secret compound and led to a locked-down section with strict regulations including “Do not get near the subject. Do not touch the subject. Do not untie the subject. If the subject happens to get free, drop to the floor and do nothing!” Pretty intense.

As we expect Fonda to come face to face with a brutal monster aka Hannibal Lecter style, the audience will be very intrigued to find out that this monstrosity is actually a red-headed, freckle-faced nine-year-old girl portrayed by the incredibly talented Savannah Liles.

Through unconventional methods of conversation, Fonda tries to open young Ellie up in order to uncover a deeply hidden sense of morality and humanity that she seems to be completely void of, from the very beginning.

The interrogation room features a large metal table, two chairs and young Ellie who is tied up in a straitjacket, unable to contribute any emotion other than her foreboding sharp wit, as she has zero compassion for human life. The hollowness in Ellie’s stature meshes perfectly with her angry observations. But above all, Ellie is an absolutely brilliant child to the point of trepidation.

Jimmy looks upon his time with Ellie as a challenging puzzle he intends to solve, “freeing her soul from damnation” and displaying to all what she really is… just a child. However, the secret division of the military holding Ellie has a completely different fate in store for the young sociopath. And Jimmy has limited time on his side to save her, especially given the undisclosed supernatural talent that could fatally end the therapy session.

Prodigy is an exercise in juvenile psychotic behaviour. Can a nine-year-old child who continuously sees blood and annihilation within a simple Rorschach test still have inscrutable compassion? It’s hard to comprehend given the compelling performance by Liles. She is absolutely astounding as the extremely violent and powerful young lady who has complete control over the entire centre by instilling sheer fear of her supremacy. With opposite intent of Stephen King’s Firestarter, Ellie not only controls her unbelievable abilities but she embraces them to induce terror through manipulation.

This is a very commanding film, inducing emotional strengths and weaknesses that complete us all as human beings. Paranormal stunts aside, Prodigy is a frightening piece of work. As captivating as Ellie is, never lose sight of the mere fact that she is a cold-blooded killer. Good advice to keep at bay, Jimmy Fonda!

Meredith Brown, MOVIES and MANIA

Read our interview with lead actor Richard Neil here

Main cast and characters:

  • Richard Neil … Fonda – Evil Things TV series; The Evil Within 2 video game; My Haunted House TV series
  • Savannah Liles … Ellie – American Horror Story TV series
  • Jolene Andersen … Olivia –  Slasher Fest ’85 short; Resident Evil: DamnationHellraiser: Revelations 
  • Emilio Palame … Birch
  • David Linski … Keaton
  • Harvey Q. Johnson … Werner
  • Aral Gribble … Ryan

Filming locations:

Riverside, California, USA


The film premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival on 4 March 2017.

Prodigy was released on DVD and VOD by Gravitas Ventures on 13 March 2018.


This film should not be confused with The Prodigy (2019)

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2 Comments on “Prodigy – USA, 2017 – reviews”

  1. SPOILER ALERT! When the doctor gets the girl to stop her destructive power by making her accept that she killed her mother by accident and the girl stops trying to destroy the place and cries and shows feeling and is spared and they all begin working with her.

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