In the year where original ‘low budget’ horror films are mainly dominating the box office, and where day and date horror films are becoming number one box office smashes in their opening week, it should come of no shock there is another exorcism movie arriving in theatres around Halloween this year. I know what you’re thinking, ‘ANOTHER EXORCISM MOVIE?!?!?’ alas though, Prey for the Devil doesn’t entirely rely on the same old song and dance, but takes elements that people are expecting, enhances them and delivers one of the better mainstream exorcism movies of the past decade or more.
Prey for the Devil focuses on the fact that exorcisms, for as long as the Church has done them, has been something for a male clergy and or priest to do. Women and Nuns were allowed to assist in the post exorcism but were never allowed to partake in the physical act of performing an exorcist. However, Sister Ann played masterfully by Jacqueline Byers, has had her own first-hand experience with possessions surrounding her mother and the trauma and first-hand experience she carries with her regarding that. When she starts getting taunted by presumably the same demon that possessed her mother with inpatients at the church who are under watch for possessions, her interest peaks in wanting to perform exorcists with the priests and become the first woman to do so. She sneaks into Father Quinn, played by Colin Salmon’s, class to watch archival footage and study the art of exorcisms. This is where she befriends Father Dante played by Christian Navarro. Father Quinn sticks his neck out for Sister Ann and allows her to study exorcisms and takes her, and the rest of the class on an exorcism of a little girl, Natalie played by Posy Taylor, whom has a relationship with Sister Ann before the demon took over.
With movies that rely on a singular character to carry the movie and as director Daniel Stamm loosely hinted at, franchise, the lead protagonist needs to be able to carry that weight on their shoulders. If they fail to, not only will the movie suffer, but any hope for a sequel or in today’s society, a universe, goes straight out the window. Thankfully though, Jacqueline Byers takes that weight, and makes it look effortless. Byers is a revelation and her journey to the stratosphere gets kicked off with her magnificent performance in Prey for the Devil.
Moreover, a script as well written and creative as the one done by Robert Zappia needs more than just a strong, passionate lead, it also needs a wonderful supporting cast to support the lead. Virginia Madsen as Dr. Peters, Christian Navarro, Colin Salmon, and Posy Taylor are all the additional cast that help elevate Prey for the Devil from a well done exorcism movie with an incredible lead, to a fully fleshed out and nearly perfectly executed ensemble and story.
Prey for the Devil uses the rich tapestry that is expected of an exorcism movie, and some of the ideology and checks that a good exorcism movie needs to have to be classified as such, but that is where the comparisons can truly end. Daniel Stamm made a point of saying he wanted to make a movie for someone whose never seen an exorcism movie past the classic The Exorcist, and for someone who may just be delving into horror, and by not relying on all the tropes and modern jump scare too heavily and making it all about exhausting what horror has become. He created something original and creative to deliver to an audience craving for something that’s not just another jump scare, not just another exorcism movie, but something that borrows from the films before it to satisfy the cravings of the horror fan, but makes it its own as well to satisfy the newer generation of viewers, and give them something they haven’t seen spoofed, talked about, or created before. Prey for the Devil will leave you devilishly satisfied and will encourage you to seek out Jacqueline Byers’ previous work and to keep an eye out for her future projects as well.