Plot: What’s it about?
As a Catholic (notice how I left the word “devout” out of that), I’m intrigued every time I see a movie about an exorcism. Granted it should begin and end with William Friedken’s masterpiece The Exorcist, but I digress. As the main character, Cotton (Patrick Fabian) tells us in the movie, exorcisms aren’t only limited to the Catholic faith. In fact, every religion has some sort of exorcism to get demons out of a possessed soul. Hmmm, ok, if you believe in that sort of thing. I do remember a movie a few years back entitled The Exorcism of Emily Rose that was based on a true story and, quite frankly, it scared the hell out of me (pardon the pun). So we’ve got demons in possession of people, pastors and priests trying to get rid of them and a family who doesn’t know what’s going on. I suppose the best piece of advice is to pray you or someone you love never gets possessed by a demon.
Sister Ann (Jacqueline Byers) works at a Catholic hospital as a nun. It’s run by Dr. Peters (Virginia Madsen). However Sister Ann has loftier goals, as she hopes to study exorcism. Wouldn’t you know it – a chance presents itself in the form of Natalie (Posy Taylor), who’s revealed to be possessed by a demon. Professor Father Quinn (Colin Salmon) manages to curry favor with the Cardinal (Ben Cross) who allows her to attend, though not formally, in his classes. Another priest, Father Dante (Christian Navarro) asks her to perform an exorcism on her pregnant sister which doesn’t exactly go that well. The demon inside now has its sights set on Sister Ann and she has to figure out why before it’s, you guessed it, too late.
I’ve yet to see an “exorcism” movie that really thinks outside of the box. Then again, I suppose these (assuming they’re real) are pretty linear. Demon invades host, they need the “power of Christ” to get rid of it. Pretty simple, actually – right? I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s difficult to break new ground with a “been there, done that” movie about exorcism. Prey for the Devil doesn’t break any new ground here and I guess it wasn’t really supposed to. We see the usual bevy of these now cliche things we’ve seen before – a character contorts itself, we see a “crab walk” up a wall and so forth. Are exorcism movies the equivalent of the Hallmark “Christmas” films? They might be.
Video: How’s it look?
As we might expect, Prey for the Devil sports a great-looking 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image. As with most “exorcism” movies, we’ve got a pretty dark color palette than only gets more so as the movie progresses. HDR is used very wisely here, bringing some added depth and increase contrast to some of the darker scenes. Detail is, as we’d expect, top notch. The palette is rather muted. Don’t expect to see many bright, shiny blue skies or some of the more festive colors of the rainbow in this one. It’s dark (I realize I’ve said that a few times already), but fittingly so.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I’m guessing when you’re dealing with demons, it’s probably best to have a nice-sounding Dolby Atmos track to bring out the “beast” that lies within (insert person in need of an exorcism here). LFE are heavily involved in the film’s third act, though I’m not really sure of what the sound should be like when you see someone crawling up a wall. Anyone? Regardless, vocals are pure and rich – as expected. Surrounds are particularly active as well, giving us a nice, atmospheric soundstage that satisfied.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Daniel Stamm and Actress Jacqueline Byers sit down for this track which is a bit better than I’d thought. We get some history of the project, how Byers approached her character and so forth.
- Possessed: Creating Prey for the Devil – At 40 minutes, this is longer than the average “making of” featurette. We get some fairly in-depth interviews with the cast and crew. This is quite expansive.
- A Lullaby of Terror – Composer Nathan Barr discusses the score for the film.
- The Devil’s Tricks: Visual Effects – We get a peek as to how some of the contortions and special effects were done for the film.
- Prey for the Devil Cast Read: The Original First Draft Screenplay – Essentially that – we get a video conference of some of the cast and crew as they read through the script.
- Speak No Evil: A Real Exorcist and Church Psychologist Discuss Possession – Screenwriter Robert Zappia serves as a moderator as he and a “real” exorcist and a psychologist have an in-depth discussion about possession.
The Bottom Line
There are no shortage of exorcism films out there, and The Conjuring films manage to do them and, I feel, do them right. That’s not to say that Prey for the Devil is a total loss, it’s just something we’ve all seen before. But if this genre is your thing – then I suppose it’s a “must see.” For me, I’ll just keep going back to The Exorcist until they make one better. And I doubt that’ll happen.