A secret branch of the military calls upon psychologist James Fonda to take the case of a dangerous patient, nine-year old Ellie. As their session begins, the young girl dissects Dr. Fonda’s unconventional methods, revealing her genius-level intellect. Only by challenging her to a battle of wits does Fonda begin to unravel the supernatural mystery surrounding Ellie—a deadly secret that threatens to destroy them both.
“Prodigy” is well written and directed by Alex Haughey and his co-writer and director Brian Vidal. They came up with something rather original. The film starts off with happy, nice family videos. You think oh, this is nice. A nice start to meet Dr. Fonda (Richard Neil) and possibly young Ellie (Savannah Liles) well, not to be the buzzkill that bust the mood but the nice moments doesn’t last long.
This film has a lot of different elements to it including horror, supernatural, thriller, psychological and the fact that Ellie is a mini Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Dr. Fonda is sitting in a park “challenging himself” by playing a game of chess. This film is a lot like a game of chess. The characters and what happens seem to determine every move. It is smart writing.
We meet the very polite Olivia (Jolene Andersen) who may also be a bit of a buzzkill as she comes for Dr. Fonda with a challenge. Wait, didn’t he say he liked a challenge?! (Good luck!)
We find Dr. Fonda at a facility that looks something out of “The Silence of the Lambs” with security created by Liam Neeson. The guard gives Dr. Fonda all the list of rules which is really long so you have to watch the movie, if you want to know all the rules!
Birch (Emilio Palame) and Dr. Keaton (David Linski) are incredible. We also meet Dr. Werner (Harvey Q. Johnson) and Ryan (Aral Gibble) who is quite charming. And then the automatic super semi-maximum prison level doors open and Olivia offers to walk Dr. Fonda to the room as they watch the guard’s wheel a….. Yeah, you guessed it, she was wheeled in just like the good doctor. Hannibal would be so proud.
We meet Ellie sitting at a table in what seems to be a straight-jacket chic ensemble. She is just a child, a kid. (Damien was a kid too and look what he did! “The Omen”) Ellie compliments Dr. Fonda and reads him with just a look. She is serious and very much in-character and talented. This kid could scare grown-ups. The best come back Dr. Fonda musters up is, “you are very observant young lady.”
He sits across from and she continues to give him a psych exam. The conversations alone are powerful. It is not exactly slow-paced but it is at a pace where you need to understand the conversations and the intensity between Dr. Fonda and Ellie are powerful.
An entire room of observers are watching the evaluation between Dr. Fonda and Ellie. This kid could be Hannibal Lecter’s kid! It is smart and different to see something this psychological and angled towards what human beings go through in a trauma. Savannah brings her A-Game! The kid could be a psychologist and you would believe it. Dr. Fonda seems a little more calm and collected. (He must not have watched “Halloween” – Dr. Loomis would lock her up) It is a random observation but “Halloween” and Michael Myers and the way Ellie just sits and stares at Dr. Fonda. There was a moment you could see the scariness in Ellie.
She also keeps looking at the two-way mirror and demands lunch and calls him “Jimmy.” He does leave his briefcase in the room alone with her. Is that a wise move? He goes to get her lunch and this team of experts doesn’t seem that prepared.
She suffers from a “severe superiority complex” and just wants a peanut butter and banana sandwich with apple juice. The calmness of Dr. Fonda is slightly scary. She didn’t ask for orange juice. Ellie discusses her mother, father and what she is capable of.
It is dramatic and sad in many ways. Ellie may or may not have briefly turned into “Dexter” for a moment?! Dr. Fonda lets his Rorschach test pictures aka inkblot test images slowly slide out of his brief case. Ellie wants to do take the test and her answers are interesting to say the least.
The fact that they wrote this kid this smart and she is not at all affected by anything is amazing. There is no hesitation and she is smart. We discover a BIG secret and oh, you need to know! But, nope no spoilers. You need to watch it to understand.
Ellie has a secret and they consider it dangerous. There are a lot of secrets but you begin to understand. Dr. Fonda now brings chess to the table and Ellie is a few steps ahead of him. And, Dr. Fonda discovers one of the secrets. This is where the supernatural/telekinesis comes into play. Ellie doesn’t like to lose. It is very psychological and draining on Dr. Fonda.
Ellie deals with some horrible things courtesy of Birch. The end of the film is good. It leaves you with enough and yet wanting more.