Prey for the Devil (Review) – Pray For A Better Exorcism Movie

DIRECTOR: Daniel Stamm

CAST: Jacqueline Byers, Virginia Madsen, Ben Cross, Colin Salmon, Christian Navarro, Nicholas Ralph, Lisa Palfrey, Velizar Binev, Posy Taylor, Debora Zhecheva

RUNNING TIME: 93 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A young nun (Byers) confronts her demonic past when she prepares to perform an exorcism…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Better late than never, I suppose; Prey for the Devil, the new exorcism horror film from director Daniel Stamm – not his first foray into demon possession films, having also made the Eli Roth-produced The Last Exorcism – was originally set for release way back in February of this year, under the alternate title The Devil’s Light (I distinctly even remember seeing posters for it with that title in my local cinema, well before any footage was ever released online). However, it was unceremoniously yanked off the schedule weeks before its scheduled release and then placed the weekend before Halloween, under its newer (and much more pun-based) title – not that it makes a lot of difference, because whenever it got released under whichever title, the movie would still not be very good.

Prey for the Devil, which comes from a script by Robert Zappia (who previously co-wrote Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, which makes a lot of sense for reasons that will be explained later), is set in a world where demon possessions are on the rise, and in response the Catholic Church has opened schools across the world for priests to learn how to exorcise said demons – only priests, mind you, with nuns being explicitly forbidden from practicing the dangerous methods. However, that doesn’t stop young nun Ann (Jacqueline Byers) from desiring to become an exorcist herself, particularly due to her unique ability to communicate with the person whose body is being taken over, as well as her own disturbing childhood experiences with an abusive mother that she believes to have been possessed herself. Father Quinn (Colin Salmon), a professor at the school, recognises Ann’s ability and agrees to train her in the ways of exorcism, which come in handy when she develops a bond with a possessed young girl named Natalie (Posy Taylor), whose own demon may have a connection with Ann herself.

Unlike last month’s terrible My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which opted for a more comedic tone with disastrous results, Prey for the Devil is a demon possession movie that at least has some ideas of what it wants to do with the well-worn horror sub-genre. However, they are only ever just ideas, and not particularly original ones at that, with this film going for every convention in the book to pad itself with material that you’ve either seen before in many other exorcism movies, or general horror films of lacklustre quality over the last twenty-odd years like The Devil Inside and – yes – Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. You can play exorcism movie bingo with the stuff in this movie, from demonic young girls to priests wrestling with their faith to sympathetic nuns, and probably have a full row by the time you reach the midway point; likewise, if you drink every time you spot a jump-scare, strobing light, fake-out dream sequence or questionable effects on possessed people, then chances are you’ll be submitted to A&E for alcohol poisoning just before the credits start rolling.

There’s nothing particularly exciting about how all of these familiar conventions are executed either, since neither Stamm nor Zappia aren’t able to find much intrigue with these characters or this story that many other storytellers before them have told. While the acting is fine, with the likes of Jacqueline Byers, Colin Salmon and a weirdly underused Virginia Madsen doing okay with what they’ve been given, the writing does very little to make them particularly interesting, at least to a point where you care enough to want them to make it out okay. Instead, they largely serve as pawns for the next big jump-scare with that obnoxiously loud orchestral stinger to make teen audiences scream, which after a while you’re just anxious for the movie to do something different than what has been said and done many times over.

The script is filled with a lot of holes, refusing to fill in on glaring issues in logic (for one, this exorcism school that also houses some dangerous possessed people has some pretty lousy security, with just about anyone able to go in and out without facing the consequences) or to be consistent with the powers of these demons (they can seemingly teleport at one stage, and even set things on fire, until they suddenly can’t for the convenience of the plot). By the end, you’re so unstimulated by all of these inconsistencies that you feel as though nothing substantial was gained or even made a legitimate threat, and makes you wish that you were watching something like The Exorcist instead.

While it makes sense why the movie was suddenly shifted to a Halloween release – after all, audiences need something horror-related to go and watch on the big day – Prey for the Devil is absolutely one of those horror movies that should have just been dumped in January or February and then quickly forgotten afterwards, like it was originally supposed to be.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Prey for the Devil is a lame demon possession movie that has very little that’s new or interesting to say or do with the well-worn horror sub-genre, padding itself with convention after convention within an unstimulating story and set of characters that ultimately do nothing to make you excited for exorcism movies again.

Prey for the Devil is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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