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New Release Review - LET US PREY

The staff and inmates of a rural Scottish police station are menaced by a mysterious stranger.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brian O'Malley

Starring: Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bryan Larkin, Hanna Stanbridge



"Let Us Prey tries hard to shock us without ever engaging our senses, but once we realise how little it has to offer, boredom quickly sets in. Let us prey we don't get a sequel."



Director Brian O'Malley's Let Us Prey plucks from many sources. The rural British setting, with a bunch of disparate characters thrown together to face an unexplained enemy, calls back to the many low budget UK horror flicks that employed such a premise in the '60s heyday of British horror. Island of Terror and Night of the Big Heat are two gems that share Let Us Prey's remote Scottish setting. The throbbing synth score and police station setting recalls John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, itself a '70s update on the classic Howard Hawks western Rio Bravo. And then there's the splatter, an aspect O'Malley revels in, and which feels like it's straight out of a low budget '80s gorefest like Scott Spiegel's supermarket slasher Intruder. Unfortunately, it's a poor facsimile of all three influences.
Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh, who really should be getting better roles than this, plays Rachel, a police officer on probation for an unmentioned offence who finds herself relocated to a remote Scottish town. It's so remote in fact that we never see anyone on the streets, not a single soul. The montage of dark empty streets that opens the film leads you to believe we're being presented with pre-dawn, but it oddly turns out to be early evening. On her way to her first night shift at the local cop shop, Rachel witnesses young boy racer and local troublemaker Caesar (Brian Vernel) run over a pedestrian, who then seems to vanish into thin air. Seeing bloodstains on his headlights, Rachel grabs a handful of Caesar and drags him to the nick. There she meets the rest of the staff, whose dubious work ethic makes Harvey Keitel's Bad Lieutenant look like Frank Serpico. When the mysterious hit and run victim (Liam Cunningham) turns up, initially refusing to speak, his odd behaviour results in him being locked up, but this doesn't stop him unleashing terror on both his fellow inmates and his jailers.
While watching Let Us Prey I was sure I had seen this story somewhere before, and then I recalled Eater, an episode of the short lived horror anthology series Fear Itself. In that episode, Elisabeth Moss played a young cop who, just like McIntosh here, finds herself facing off against a supernatural inmate on her first night at a police station. The resolutions are different enough to avoid allegations of plagiarism, but the setup and execution are practically identical. Eater was one of the few successful installments of Fear Itself, thanks to tight direction by Stuart Gordon. A key factor is that Eater ran for less than 40 minutes, while Let Us Prey struggles to fill its feature length, and drags on quite a bit, spending far too long in setting up characters for what is essentially a spam in a can splatterfest.
It's the splatter element that will prove most divisive for viewers. Gorehounds will appreciate how downright nasty it gets (a shot of a murdered child is particularly distasteful), but those of us who favour suspense, mood and atmosphere will feel short changed. Let Us Prey tries hard to shock us without ever engaging our senses, but once we realise how little it has to offer, boredom quickly sets in. Let us prey we don't get a sequel. 



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