The Prodigy Pregnant Woman Screening

“You are all completely insane.”

Last night in Austin, Texas, director Nicholas McCarthy lovingly sent this message to all of the brave women in the audience who attended an Orion Pictures and Fons PR-sponsored screening of his new evil-child horror film, The Prodigy…while pregnant.

McCarthy does have a point – as far as elaborate screening stunts go, this one is pretty wild. McCarthy went on to emphasize that “you should not fear what you are going to see, because most of it will likely not happen to you. MOST of it.” As the lights went down, I saw ladies calmly lay their hands across their round bellies and there was an air of unease and morbid curiosity as we all set out on this journey.

You can watch the trailer here. If you’re in a hurry, here’s the synopsis: 

Taylor Schilling stars in THE PRODIGY as Sarah, a mother whose young son Miles’ disturbing behavior signals that an evil, possibly supernatural force has overtaken him. Fearing for her family’s safety, Sarah must grapple with her maternal instinct to love and protect Miles in favor of investigating what – or who – is causing his dark turn. She is forced to look for answers in the past, taking the audience on a wild ride; one where the line between perception and reality remains blurry.

Now you can see why viewing this film in a theater full of pregnant women would be insane, but also hilariously brilliant. As one of maybe four women in the theater not currently pregnant, I still enjoyed the film and watching it alongside expectant mothers with their partners. McCarthy takes an overall positive experience pertaining to motherhood and eclipses it with realistic and fictional terrors that are not foreign territory for women.

He explores a sense of asynchronous development which refers to an unbalanced intellectual, physical, and emotional development commonly referred to as “giftedness” in children. While this title is favorable in the eyes of some parents, there is often an uneven distribution where a child may be intellectually advanced, but that disproportion is compensated with a lack of emotional development. This is the case with Miles. Because of his aloof and increasingly strange behavior, innocent moments of tenderness like a hug or childish game become moments of stone-cold fear. Some scenes are so distressing that people had to laugh out of context just to relieve tension because they are too terrible if any mother should have to face them one day.

I felt empathy for the character of Sarah, but also for the women in the seats around me as I could audibly hear their stressful sighs, gasps of disgust, and small moans of discomfort as some moved their resting hands from their stomachs to cover their mouths or shield their eyes instead. There is one scene where Sarah allows Miles to crawl into bed with her. He then slowly inches his hand over her shoulder and asks, “Mommy, will you love me forever…no matter what I do?” This moment ignited a distinct “oh, hell no” from one woman and another simply drew in a large breath as she reached for her husband’s hand.

However, one of the ladies in my aisle seemed completely unfazed. All of these reactions mirror the complexity of raising a child and how a parent’s love can periodically fluctuate in potency. Since motherhood is constructed within a framework of societal expectations, it was very interesting to observe which moments in the film made these particular mothers tick and where their lines in the sand of love could be drawn.

Every woman I talked to afterwards was thoroughly unsettled in one way or another. However, you don’t have to be a parent to get freaked out by this movie. McCarthy has developed his craft within the horror genre over the past few years after directing The Pact and Holidays. His newest feature truly struck a chord with this audience and we all had a blast. So, I predict his succinct use of tension and gore coupled with Jackson Robert Scott’s impressively creepy acting skills (despite being only ten years old) will disturb just about anyone to some degree. The overall concept within the storyline is interesting and well-executed. To my knowledge, it’s a narrative approach that has not really been applied to the genre before in this manner – and there have been a ton of evil kid horror movies, so that says a lot.

I personally maintain a strong respect for mothers and parents despite not having children of my own, and this film reinforces the kind of strength and fear involved with their role. As for my feelings after this screening? Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not pregnant and that the only thing patiently waiting for me when I get home is my German Shepard.

The Prodigy crawls into theaters on February 8, 2019.

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