Film Review: THE PRODIGY (USA 2019) ***

The Prodigy Poster

A mother concerned about her young son’s disturbing behavior thinks something supernatural may be affecting him.


Jeff Buhler

THE PRODIGY is a horror slasher/possession film that by nature of the script evokes a lot of thinking – at least from my part.  Part of these will be mentioned in the review.

The plot centres around a child, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) whose disturbing behaviour signals that an evil, possibly supernatural force possessed him, forcing his parents, Sarah (Taylor Schilling) and John (Peter Mooney) to investigate whether sinister forces are involved.  Miles is a prodigy with exceptional learning ability though socially backward.  The film is clear later on to let the audience know the difference between possession and reincarnation though the effect of both on a horror film is the same – i.e Miles behaves like a different being.

The film begins with three intercut scenes.  One is a woman screaming for help, running out of the woods stopping a car driven by another woman, who stops.  The second is a birth, an early one at that, with the mother in labour.  The scene is intercut with a man in his tool shed, called out by the police and then gunned down in the yard.  The man clasps what seems to be a severed hand.  When the woman gives birth the writhing baby fades into the dying man that was gunned down by the police.   The film then moves on in years when the baby is now grown to a boy of different ages 8 and 10.  It does not take a genius to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together, but it is still fun doing it.  The dead serial killer is reincarnated in the boy.  The parents have to figure out what is happening and who the reincarnating killer is and save the day, and hopefully their son in the process.  A doctor, Arthur Jacobson (played by Canadian Colm Feore) aids in solving the mystery.

The film is supposedly set in Pennsylvania but shot in Canada.  The actors are a mix of Canadian and American casting.

McCarty’s film is both scary in concept and execution.  One is not knowing what your child will grow up to be.  One scene has the mother wondering the same question, then assured by the physician that the boy is giftedly bright.  The film contains graphic gore and violence – the most disturbing scene involving the boy hitting another with a huge wrench.

Not to mention any details, there is one glitch in the story that I thought evaded the scriptwriter.  But upon closer examination, the script allowed for that discrepancy if one thinks hard enough.  The details will not disclosed for plot twists would have to be revealed.

THE PRODIGY is not without its loose ends (how did the boy get the sharp shears in the car?  How did the boy have the tools to make the camera to spy on his parents), which is forgivable in a low budget horror movie.  Still this is one hell of a thinking horror film, and a satisfying one nevertheless.



Film Review: WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE (Canada 2018)

What Keeps You Alive Poster
Majestic mountains, a still lake and venomous betrayals engulf a female married couple attempting to celebrate their one-year anniversary.


Colin Minihan


Colin Minihan

Scanty clad female victim is pushed off the cliff and presumed dead.  But she crawls to safety, brutally tending to her wounds.  She then has to rely on her wits to outsmart her killer.  If this premise for the new Canadian thriller WHAT KEEPS YOU ALUVE seems familiar, it is also the premise of the recent French 2017 thriller by Coralie Fargeat REVENGE.  REVENGE premiered at TIFF’s Midnight Madness and had a commercial run and the truth is that it is a much better film.  The irony of it was that REVENGE is similar to another successful horror movie I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. 

The film begins with two women Meghan (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Julie (Britanny Allen) arriving at a cottage by a lake.  (The film was shot in beautiful, Muskoka,Ontario.)  It turns out that the two two women are celebrating their first wedding anniversary.  Julie discovers that Meghan is not what she seems.  Meghan has not only kept a secret from Julie but a sinister dark side.  It is then revealed that Meghan is a psycho.

The film is beautifully shot, the lake looking especially inviting.  The overhead shot of the canoe with the dark lake waters is worthy of mention, thanks to the film’s cinematographer, David Schuurman.

The story could have been told with a straight couple instead of a lesbian couple without much change.  In fact the script was initially written with a straight couple in mind.  The update is a welcome one (credit to the filmmakers for taking this route) though it might reduce the size of the film’s target market.

But all good intuitions aside, the film fails because of the credibility element.  The source of the terror is Meghan being a psycho.  There is no explanation for the origin of her disease.  With one year a a wife and wife couple, it  is quite unbelievable that Julie has never suspected anything wrong with her partner.  There is also too many opportunities for her to escape which she never takes.  Megahn and Julie get invited to a neighbour’s dinner party.  Julie has more than one chance to tell her hosts of the danger she is in but never does.  She could also have run off many times but does not.

The phrase WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE comes from Meghan’s father when a younger Meghan shoots a bear in self defence.  She was forced to eat the entire bear for weeks till finished as she was taught to kill only what keeps on alive.  The meaning of the phrase comes into effect again at the climax of the film.

The film’s two female leads Anderson and Allen are quite good, they being together before in the horror film JIGSAW.  Allen besides starring in the film, also composed the film’s musical score (which is not half bad).

The film is more violent that needs be.  While Fargeat’s REVENGE’s violence was entertaining, this film’s violence is just plain nasty.

The film has made its rounds at various film festivals:

Official Selection – 2018 SXSW Film Festival

Official Selection – 2018 Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival

Official Selection – 2018 Fantasia Film Festival 

The film is strictly for horror fans.


TIFF 2017 Movie Review: IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (USA 2017)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

It Stains the Sands Red Poster
In the throes of a zombie apocalypse, a troubled woman from Las Vegas with a dark past finds herself stranded in the desert with a lone and ravenous zombie on her tail.


Colin Minihan


Brittany AllenJuan RiedingerMerwin Mondesir

The zombie film genre is never short of new entries. The new zombie films have to have fresh ideas or original scare set-ups to entertain audiences, many of whom have been saturated already.

IT STAINS THE SANDS RED begins with a couple, an African American and his sexy girlfriend, Molly (Britanny Allen) stranded in the desert fete the car goes into the ditch after a silly argument.

Mollyis a troubled woman from Las Vegas with a dark past. She finds herself stranded in the desert. This means one of two things – either zombies or a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE tip family. It is the former with a lone ravenous Zombie (Juan Riedinger) on her tail. At first, she’s easily able to outpace her un-dead pursuer, but things quickly become a nightmare when she realizes the zombie doesn’t need to ever stop and rest. Running low on supplies and beat down by the harsh environment, Molly will have to summon the strength she never knew she had to ultimately face the zombie, and the demons that have chased her all her life.

Molly spends half the movie escaping from the one zombie. At least Director Minihand knows zombies are slower. So, she just needs t walk away faster than the zombie – giving more opportunity for ehr to talk to herself (and hence to the caera) for more nonsense sayings.

Expected stuff in the film includes no signal on the cell phone; the sexy girl surviving and obviously the other one done for; sexy girl victim eventually running off in skimpy outfit (Molly runs around half the time with sexy leather bikini outfit under expensive furs) and more. Would an audience watcher or the big ugly guy? Answer is obvious. Inventive stuff (or slightly inventive for that matter) includes an attack in the night with things that can only be seen with a flashlight; zombie hanging on a ledge; combining her own inner demons and the zombie demons; Molly doing coke while being pursued and stranded in the desert. The metaphor of the inner and inner demons is too obvious and not really needed in a horror flick.

The film is unshamefully politically incorrect with dialogue like, :Bitch!’ and “I am going to cut you rip real deep like a n******* in the sun.” An attempted rape scene is also present for the pleasure of the males.

Film costs are obviously a minimum with just one victim and one zombie. This limits what can be seen in the movie. Molly has to talk to herself aloud. to keep the film’s dialogue going. Minihand makes use of the setting like a sandstorm to add more dimension to the movie.

Humour is silly at most: “Can you ever keep your mouth shut.” “You smell like shit.” “Like every man in a bar, you can never know when to say no.” “And worst of all, “You got a small dick!”

IT STAINS THE SANDS RED ends up a mediocre horror zombie film with just a few but insufficient new tricks.