From the generic flashback opening all the way through to the laughable final scene, Prey for the Devil is an exercise in “seen this all before”.
WRITTEN BY JACK RANSOM / NOVEMBER 2, 2022
The inevitable supernatural horror feature to arrive at the spookiest time of the year. Prey for the Devil (or The Devil’s Light depending on your location) sees a nun (Jacqueline Byers) prepare to perform an exorcism and comes face to face with a demonic force with mysterious ties to her past.
I think we can all agree that nothing in the exorcism sub-genre has come close to the 1973 classic that defines it, The Exorcist. There have been *countless* of utterly disposable (and usually relentlessly dull) features littered throughout the past 10 years, with the likes of The Last Exorcism, The Devil Inside, The Rite, Possession and the list goes on. Now we can add Prey for the Devil to the same pile to start the 2020's.
Clocking in at a merciful yet detrimental 90 minutes, the film offers glimpses of potential in its premise yet fails to capitalise on any of them. The concept of the Rite of Exorcism (training priests to fight the rise of possession cases), the idea of keeping potentially demonically infected individuals underneath the school and Sister Ann (Byers) being the only woman amongst the priest trainees, are ideas that are certainly ripe for potential, it’s just a shame that they are executed so bog-standardly here and are completely outnumbered by the eye-rolling checklist of genre cliches, snooze inducing exposition and a predictable lead character trauma centred character arc.
You’ll be surprised to hear that the film’s jump scare centric approach to horror fails consistently. Counting down to background silhouettes, loud bangs, fake outs and the lights going out before a big “Raaargh!” There is a sprinkling of surprisingly gnarly imagery on display (the pregnancy exorcism being the most striking) and one eye-widening establishing shot towards the finale aside, the CGI isn’t too bad for this type of film. Stylistically there is nothing exciting or unique here at all. It frequently treads the line between glossy sheen, overly shadowy and DTV/TV production.
The performances really aren’t bad, it’s just that the characters are utterly forgettable and one-note. Byers suffers from the screenplay and the criminal lack of emotional investment in her tragedy stricken backstory, though she is giving her best shot and Colin Salmon delivers his familiar stoic wisdom. The rest of the supporting cast are absolutely nothing and simply are there to help pad out the thin narrative.
I will struggle to remember Prey for the Devil after the next couple of days. With this year being such a celebratory year for the horror genre this drags it back towards a pit of generic hellishness. From the generic flashback opening all the way through to the laughable final scene, the film is an exercise in “seen this all before” and fails to build upon its smattering of interesting ideas.