Director: Daniel Stamm
Writer: Robert Zappia
Starring: Jacqueline Byers, Posy Taylor, Colin Salmon, Christian Navarro, Lisa Palfrey, Nicholas Ralph, Ben Cross, and Virginia Madsen
Prey for the Devil is directed by Daniel Stamm, who also directed the 2010 film The Last Exorcism. It’s a fairly standard exorcism story that’s entertaining and has some good scares, even if it’s predictable and doesn’t bring anything new to the much loved horror sub-genre. Jacqueline Byers plays Sister Ann, who after suffering abuse as a child, has grown up to become a nun focusing her life on helping the possessed, believing that is what had happened to her mother. When Natalie (Posy Taylor), a young girl, is showing signs of possession, Ann stops at nothing to save her.
From the first moment this film lets you know that it’s not about whether possession is real or not. While there is a character that tries to explain things scientifically, that’s such a small part of the plot. By not having there be any doubt that what’s happening is real, it does allow the horror to get going straight away. There are some really creepy and unsettling moments in the story, especially in the early moments where you don’t know what to expect. There’s a few jump-scares that you’ll be expecting, so they don’t quite work, but there’s still a creepy atmosphere that’s really well created.
There is some light subtext to give the film some extra weight, such as Sister Ann being the first female exorcist in centuries. There’s on-screen text at the beginning explaining the history of exorcism, and how it is exclusive to priests while nuns act as nurses. Then Sister Ann is allowed to observe the exorcist class. While the social commentary is not subtle, it doesn’t distract from the horror. More interesting is the look at child abuse. The scenes showing Ann’s childhood, where she is played by Debora Zhecheva, are really unsettling and down right terrifying. Her mother combs her hair, which gets violent, and just seeing that comb later on is enough to send a chill down your spine.
The horror is undone slightly by an overreliance on flashy effects and CGI. It all looks great, but the scariest moments are when it’s quieter and you’re waiting for something to happen. The possessed Natalie just isn’t as scary as she could be. Sadly, the final act isn’t scary at all, with a big face-off between Sister Ann and the devil that would seems like something out of a comic book film. The visuals are great, it’s just a shame there’s no tension or terror. Worse is the twist, that’s so obvious that at the first hint you’ll know it’s coming.
Prey for the Devil is pretty much exactly what you expect. A by-the-numbers exorcist horror film. It has some good scares that’ll keep you entertained, and it’s well made, even if it’s not that special.
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