Prey for the Devil Review: A hollow possession story
Although it came just in time for Halloween, Prey for the Devil isn’t much of a treat for horror fans as it can’t make the best use of its unique elements and delivers standard scares.
The film offers a unique look into the Catholic Church’s ideology and education surrounding exorcism that’s questionably authentic but can make for a cool horror atmosphere. The idea of there being an underground area where priests-in-training try to help those currently under dark possessions and learn the practice is pretty unsettling. The dark history of fatal exorcisms within the Vatican and those affected by demonic possessions is truly chilling, and the exorcism that’s performed midway through the film definitely has this looming darkness around it that’s creepy. Also, there are some intriguing story threads surrounding gender roles that help create some potential depth for lead character Sister Ann (Jacqueline Byers), a nun who finds herself in a battle against a demon that tormented her as a child after it possesses a young girl named Natalie (Posy Taylor).
However, the film rarely breaks past the surface when it comes to how it handles its horror and character potential making the experience lack engagement past initial moments. When things like the underground exorcism facility and the Vatican’s history of failed exorcisms are unearthed, they evoke some good atmospheric horror that just isn’t strong enough to last. There’s rarely a deeper exploration into these settings and ideas, and the film fails to capitalize on these moments by simply playing around with the horror. A lot of the lore built isn’t detailed enough to be stay interesting or deliver much-needed depth and there isn’t enough time or attention spent on this unique world of exorcism to make it stand out greater. Even the sheer concept of Sister Ann breaking gender roles by joining the priests in their exorcism classes and finding self-empowerment in her fight against evil comes off super weak because of how thin and basic the film’s themes and arcs are.
Honestly, Prey for the Devil really doesn’t bring much new to the table with its possession story and relies on old scare tactics that pack little punch. There are some skin-crawling visuals and moments with the film’s generic demon that are kind of cool, especially in the exorcism sequences, but there’s rarely a memorable scare and you can see a lot of them coming from a mile away. The general suspense formula becomes old quick, and the overuse of flashy editing can be really disorienting. Prey for the Devil is so devoid of effective or interesting scares at times that it actually becomes boring and the generally generic story it tells doesn’t help much either.
Again, with there being little depth and details delivered in this setting and story, there isn’t much that it offers to really get its hooks into you. The story direction rarely takes any unique routes and the twists that are meant to feel unexpected are utterly predictable and typical. There’s this whole connection built between Sister Ann and Natalie as well as a secret from Sister Ann’s past that results in a pretty standard twist that attempts to add more emotional stakes but fails to really do so. Although the film tries to hint that a future story could happen and that things aren’t exactly closed and shut, there’s nothing that makes you really want to see more.
In a year of strong horror offerings that have taken the genre to new heights, Prey for the Devil is easily forgettable with its generic scares and story as well as its lackluster execution of its potentially interesting setting and ideas making it a hollow possession story.
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