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Review: Prey For The Devil – “A perfect-for-Halloween petrifier full of massive scares”

Prey for the Devil (previously The Devil’s Light) is directed by Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) – read my interview with him here – from a script written by Robert Zappia (Halloween H20). It stars Jacqueline Byers (Bad Samaritan), Christian Navarro (13 Reasons Why), Colin Salmon (Resident Evil) and Virginia Madsen (Candyman).

Sister Ann is a nun working at a school for exorcists. Two things set her apart from her fellow wimple wearers: she’s a cool nun, who dresses grunge when out of her habit, and she is also dead set on getting into those exorcism lessons that are exclusively for the priests. The exorcism lecturer, Father Quinn (Salmon) sees something special in Ann and when she starts to be attacked by the possession victims in her care, quickly gets a cardinal’s sign-off for her to be taught in the ways of exorcism to protect herself and her patients.

The speed and ease and mostly lack of fuss in getting Ann in is refreshing. Apart from one misery-guts abbess, everyone is keen to overturn the centuries-old rule and get progressive. In a story like this, you would also expect there to be a fellow student trying to get her kicked out, but from the first time Ann saves Father Quinn and her soon-to-be bestie Father Dante (Navarro) while practice-exorcising a little girl she is in and respected.

As Ann learns the ropes and brings a much-needed victim empathy to balance out the exorcists’ machismo, she must battle the possessed and also try and figure out what makes her so special and why the demons are so obsessed with her.

Stamm made an excellent horror film in 2010 called The Last Exorcism and he brings that unpredictable small-film energy and found footage vibe to this studio production. The Last Exorcism is frequently far scarier and gorier and nastier than you expected, catching you off guard in the most brilliant and terrifying ways. The scares are always earned too, from great set pieces that are expertly handled and often grounded and levelled up by Stamm’s use of CCTV footage and handheld camera.

Prey for the Devil is an intense film – tw: parental abuse – but the almost Harry Potter feel of the school japes and the crazy cool effects that often nod to The Exorcist and The Last Exorcist make for a nice counterbalance that results in a film that while scaring the bejeesus out of you still feels like fun.

Jacqueline Byers is an enjoyable lead-whose-dark-past-is-slowly-revealed and will hopefully get some sequels in which to give us more cool nun vs. evil movies, Navarro is a loveable wingman who gets some dramatic meat late on and the strong strong strong supporting cast of Salmon and Madsen provides helpings of gravitas and charisma.

The verdict:
The good-for-her Exorcist, Prey for the Devil is a perfect-for-Halloween petrifier full of massive scares.

Prey for the Devil is released in the UK on the 28th October.

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