Director – Daniel Stamm (In the Dark, Fear the Walking Dead)
Starring – Jacqueline Byers (Bad Samaritan, The Strain), Debora Zhecheva (Chernobyl: Trails of the Past, Stalker: The Curse of the Zone), and Christian Navarro (13 Reasons Why, The Tick)
Release Date – 2022
Rating – 3/5
It’s my personal opinion that religious horror is the most effective and that doesn’t mean what you think. Horror films based on stories and characters from the bible doesn’t work if you are an atheist. If you are like me then you see the “good book” as a work of fiction and most of the films centered around it just doesn’t have the impact if you don’t have faith. However, if you are an atheist or agnostic then you may find films centered around religious fanatics to be extremely affective.
The perfect example of this is Kevin Smith’s Red State. The idea behind gives me fucking chills. I don’t mind a religious horror film but unless it’s something like Red State or the mother from Carrie then it usually misses it’s mark with me. A few weeks back I was sent a review copy of Prey for the Devil. I knew this was a horror film based deep in the Catholic faith, but the trailer really sold me on it. Curiosity got the best of me and I tossed it in when I had some time to kill.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a young woman who had an abusive childhood. Many claim her mother was plagued with mental illness, but she believes her mother was possessed. After problematic teen years she dedicates herself to the church in hopes of becoming a female exorcist. While working with a young girl in the care of the church she discovers that the evil presence haunting the child is one connected to her youth and revealing who the child really is. **Spoiler Alert**
A lot of religious horror focuses too much on the religious aspect and not the horror. They prey, so to speak, on the viewer’s faith in hopes of really stirring up some fears. While I respect it, it makes for a ridiculously dull film if you don’t know shit about the bible or Christianity. Prey for the Devil is a film that is deep in religious imagery and iconography but doesn’t make the story all about the religion itself which would explain why I was able to fully submerge myself into it.
The acting in this one is great. The characters have a lot of depth and the cast absolutely nailed their performances. I wasn’t familiar with Jacqueline Byers prior to this film but she is a name I’m looking forward to seeing in other films in the future. She was a strong female lead that had a wide emotional range that felt genuine. I was also impressed by Colin Salmon and the amount of screen time he was given. I would have liked to see his character have more focus in the story, but I’ll take what I can get.
The story for this one is deep with character development and Catholic imagery without overdoing it. I really liked using the catholic school with priests doing exorcism studies as the basis for the story. I also like that the film focuses on a strong female lead who shakes the foundation of the church with the role of women in it. It is predictable, and you can see the twist coming a mile away but it doesn’t take too much away from the build up in it.
Finally, the film has some decent make-up effects and a little blood that is barely noticeable. What is noticeable is the horrible CGI that we are given. Some of the scenes featured the possessed bending in unnatural manners that looked extremely cheap. I know contortionists could have pulled these moves off without bringing the quality of the film down. Overall, Prey for the Devil was a surprisingly entertaining horror thriller with a religious spin. It’s not overly in your face about religion but uses it as part of the plot. I highly recommend it. Check it out.