Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 33 minutes, Director – Daniel Stamm
A nurse at an exorcism school (Jacqueline Byers) finds herself training to perform an exorcism after re-encountering a demon from her childhood.
Prey For The Devil is perhaps a classic example of a film suffering from ‘we’ve seen it before’. Yet, there’s a determination within it that lifts things up and still makes for a fairly watchable set of events. You can see the heights that it’s reaching for and while it may not quite reach them, due to its flaws, there’s an admirable quality to the film because of this.
Throughout we follow exorcism school nurse Sister Ann (Jacqueline Byers). She believes that she’s had experience with demons and possession in the past, primarily her childhood relationship with her mother (Koyna Ruseva) – who was otherwise diagnosed with schizophrenia. It’s part of Ann’s job to survey various patients in the hospital wing of the school, where they are being watched over to determine whether what is presented is a case of possession or, more simply, mental illness. It makes Ann’s eventual encounter with a demon, taking over the body of young child Natalie (Posy Taylor), more difficult to prove, and lead to an exorcism. Therefore, she breaks the tradition of priests-only in classes, led by Colin Salmon’s Father Quinn, in the hope of learning how to tackle the demon which has caught back up with her.
There’s plenty of horror-leaning sequences throughout involving demonic attacks and freaky body contortions. They may have more effect if not set in constantly flickering lights. In fact, the most effective moments of horror are the less ‘dramatic’ or showy moments that simply let themselves exist as an individual point. At one point, as if taunting her through a two way mirror, Natalie’s body stares at Ann, holes open up in her hands as maggots slowly begin to crawl out. Moments such as this are the most effective parts of the film as they don’t entirely play into the standard tropes of an exorcism/ possession horror, and stray away from throwing various ideas at once into the mix.
Away from the horror things are generally moved along fairly well, particularly thanks to a good central performance from Byers. While some dialogue may feel a bit heavy-handed with certain pieces of religious dialogue comparing the work being done to war and battles – in the opening stages it’s mentioned that “we are losing a war that has been raging for centuries” just to further get into the mind of the viewer just how tough these demons are – there’s generally enough within the drama to make things watchable and to move them along. The final stages may feel somewhat drawn out but as a whole the film feels more saved by the fact that it’s only 93 minutes long, including credits.
The biggest downfall is the feeling of having seen much of this done before, and the lack of subtlety, and forced intensity, or certain horror sequences. There are good ideas and moments here and there, helping to give the film an admirable feeling that it is trying, but as a whole things don’t quite reach the intended heights due to the handful of flaws that are present within the piece. It means that as a whole while fairly watchable Prey For The Devil falters due to not quite being able to overcome its own demons.
There’s a good film within Prey For The Devil and as a whole the film is watchable, it does, however, despite clearly trying, stumble due to familiarity and occasional heavy-handedness with dialogue and horror sequences.