The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - PREY FOR THE DEVIL | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - PREY FOR THE DEVIL

A nun battles a demon that has taken possession of a young girl's soul.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Daniel Stamm

Starring: Jacqueline Byers, Colin Salmon, Christian Navarro, Lisa Palfrey, Nicholas Ralph, Ben Cross, Virginia Madsen

Prey for the Devil poster

In horror, the exorcism sub-genre is rivalled only by the zombie movie in terms of being played out. William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty laid out a template with The Exorcist and filmmakers have pretty much stuck rigidly to it ever since. You know exactly what to expect from these movies. There'll be a priest struggling with some form of guilt and a possessed young woman writhing on a bed screaming obscenities while the special effects crew pull strings and levers to make sores and welts appear on her flesh. It'll all end in a sort of spiritual smackdown, usually in a bedroom, as the priest overcomes his metaphorical demons to battle a literal demon.

Prey for the Devil review

With 2010's The Last Exorcism, director Daniel Stamm deviated away from the formula by positing a Protestant pastor as his protagonist rather than the usual Catholic priest, but while the denomination may have changed, we still got all the usual tropes and clich├ęs of the sub-genre. Now with Prey for the Devil, Stamm gives us a female exorcist, but that's really the only way his film deviates from the template.

Sister Ann (Jacqueline Byers) is a twentysomething novice nun who works in a Catholic hospital adjoining an "Exorcist school" in Massachussetts. While the priests, led by Father Quinn (Colin Salmon), perform exorcisms in the basement, Ann and her colleagues heal the wounds the "patients" have endured in the process. I'm pretty sure if an institution like this really existed in the US, the FBI would probably raze it to the ground like Waco, but let's just go with it shall we?

Prey for the Devil review

Ann becomes attached to Natalie (Posy Taylor), a young girl possessed by a demon who seems to be the same entity that took control of Ann's mother when she was a child herself. Displaying an ability to control the demon with her compassionate ways, Ann impresses Father Quinn, who defies the institute by allowing her to sit in on his lectures, which are otherwise forbidden to women. Ann befriends a novice priest, Father Dante (Christian Navarro), who asks her to take a stab at exorcising a demon that has possessed his sister. As Ann embarks on a new clandestine career of moonlighting as an exorcist, she begins to worry Old Nick himself has a personal vendetta against her.

Prey for the Devil takes itself awfully seriously, which would be fine if it was bringing anything remotely novel to the exorcism movie table. But watching the film present us with the usual scenes of religious figures wrestling with guilt and shame, interspersed with FX heavy set-pieces of kids crawling on the ceiling, you find yourself questioning the point of continually rehashing this stuff. The only thing that's new here is a tepid confrontation of the Catholic Church's misogyny towards its female recruitment policies, but otherwise the church is let off the hook. Given all the scandals of the last few decades, the idea of children being kept in a Catholic institution and essentially experimented on should be more horrifying than the idea that they're possessed, but the movie is very much in the church's corner.

Prey for the Devil review

Byers is a bright spark, managing to add some humanity to a character that likely read as one-dimensional on the page. Salmon makes for an effective mentor/authority figure, bringing a Patrick Stewart quality to his Father Quinn. Virginia Madsen does some good work as Ann's secular teacher. Kudos to the cast for committing to this, but playing this narrative with such a straight face does little to make the movie an engaging spooky season watch.

Prey for the Devil
 is on Prime Video UK now.