2019 looks like being a great year for evil kid horror movies, with the Ireland-set The Hole in the Ground premiering in theaters March 1 and the new adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary released April 5. But beating both into cinemas — like some demonic pre-teen hellbent on poisoning the popcorn! — is The Prodigy, out Feb. 8.
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact), the film stars Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black) as a woman named Sarah, whose young son Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) exhibits disturbing behavior that signals an evil, possibly supernatural force has overtaken him. The film is written by Jeff Buhler, whose credits include 2008’s Bradley Cooper-starring The Midnight Meat Train and that upcoming remake of Pet Sematary.
McCarthy himself admits that he is a connoisseur of the evil-kid genre.
“It’s just a delicious horror trope,” says the filmmaker. “To see a child, who we believe is innocent because children are so beautiful, to see that turned on its head is really kind of amazing.”
McCarthy recommends five more evil kid movies below.
The Bad Seed (1956)
“There are the classics that kind of established the trope of the evil kid. Those two movies would be The Bad Seed and Village of the Damned. The Bad Seed, because it was adapted from a play and was a novel before then, is a peculiar movie. But everything that is in this subgenre is inside that film. There’s something really perverse about it because it is about this ridiculously innocent girl [who is] is so evil and nasty. I think that movie’s fascinating.”
Village of the Damned (1960)
“The original Village of the Damned is a bona fide science fiction-horror classic and a movie that I think is still really effective and spooky today. I saw it for the first time on television when I was about ten-years-old and the image of those kids with those glowing eyes, and then the completely disturbing ending to that movie really rattled me. In The Prodigy, there is a similar thing going on with Miles’ eyes and how they represent something deeper.”
The Children (1980)
“Along with those kinds of upscale evil-kid movies, I tend to like some of the grubbier, more grindhouse-variety evil-kid movies as well. The Children is bananas. I saw it in a movie theatre with an audience that was completely unprepared for it. It’s about these kids that get kind of [irradiated] on a school bus and turn mindless killers who hug their parents to destroy them. The only way they can be stopped is if they have their hands cut off. No one ever explains why it’s happening, which is part of the power of the movie. It’s a movie that I return to every few years because it is so strange.”
The Children (2008)
“There’s actually another movie called The Children. That’s a British film which is really interesting, that totally delivers on the evil-kid subgenre. It becomes a siege movie with these kids attacking grownup characters. That is kind of an overlooked horror movie of the 21st century.”
Who Can Kill a Child?
“The one that maybe has the most distasteful title, but is one of the most provocative, is the Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child? It’s a movie about a whole island of children who have turned against grownups and no one who sees it forgets it. I think I watched it on a bootleg tape twenty years ago and it kind of altered my brain chemistry, seeing that movie. [Laughs] The title is such a turn-off. It’s like the worst date movie you can imagine. But it’s a compelling and disturbing horror film and one of the best of that decade I think.”
Watch the trailer for The Prodigy above.
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