This May Feel Familiar
Guilt is a powerful force and can crush the strongest people, but it can also be a gateway for sinister forces. Sister Ann is a student at a facility that trains nuns and priests to fight on the holy battlefield against the forces of the devil. Ann is only allowed to study prayer and nursing because she is a woman, but the men are trained in exorcism. However, when Father Quinn offers her a spot in his class on the practice, she soon finds herself pulled into a battle for the soul of a young girl. Natalie has been taken hostage by a malevolent deity connected to Ann’s past, and it threatens to kill her just like it did Ann’s mother many years ago. How far is Ann willing to go to save the girl, and what price is she willing to pay?
Is Prey for the Devil Just a Basic Haunting Story?
There is a bad habit in Hollywood where movies get made, not because someone had an amazing idea, but because a studio needed to push something out. Typically, these films follow a formula and don’t even attempt to come up with anything new. Prey for the Devil is exactly this kind of movie.
In this case, it takes place in an environment that is both a school and FBI headquarters for the holy warriors of God. Sister Ann studies the duties of a nun, but her traumatic past experiences as a child draw her towards exorcism to better combat the forces that killed her mother. This plot point sees her face opposition, given that she is a woman trying to work in a man’s field. Ann is reminded of this often, but no one tries all that hard to enforce it.
The central conflict sees her fighting for the soul of a young girl she bonded with, although there are barely any scenes to showcase said bond. It’s just stated, and the audience is forced to play along with it. The little girl, Natalie, spends most of her time sleeping, but when she is awake, she is crawling up walls and speaking with demonic voices, the basics for possession. Ann is further connected to her more than halfway through the movie through a randomly thrown-in plot point that needed to be introduced somewhere near the beginning. Because it was not, the plot feels clunkily put together at this point, but there is no going back.
Are the Characters Unique?
The best character in Prey for the Devil is Sister Ann, played by actress Jacqueline Byers (Bad Samaritan). Jacqueline’s performance makes the character fun and easy to root for from beginning to end. Ann is strong-willed, with just the right amount of rebelliousness to keep her from being a trope character. Where this movie lacks character-wise is that nearly everyone else here is mere cookie-cutter cutouts, deathly similar to other characters with comparable roles in other films – largely one-dimensional. It wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that they are played by underutilized actors recognizable from other horror works.
There is Virginia Madsen (Candyman 1992), who plays a professor in exorcism and, for some reason, can’t believe Ann’s mother was ever possessed. Colin Salmon (Resident Evil) plays Father Quinn, who offers nothing more to his role other than being the one male authority figure who decides to give Ann a shot. Then there is Christian Navarro (13 Reasons Why), who plays the typical pretty boy love interest and the only other man to believe in Ann. Finally, Posy Taylor plays Natalie, a little girl whose only character trait is being a sweet and innocent little girl possessed by a demon that is never really explained. Maybe it’s supposed to be the Devil himself, hence the movie title. All that is known about it is that it has haunted Ann for most of her life. If these characters were more interesting, then perhaps it could have made this movie at least something of a standout.
Does It Do Anything New?
Nothing in Prey for the Devil can be considered new or even remotely original. Every scare is reminiscent of things done in many other haunting movies just like it, from the possessed bending over backward, climbing up walls, speaking with a different voice, etc. There is little work to elevate tension as the film mainly uses jump scares that can be seen coming a mile away. It’s telling when you can line up scenes from various other movies and ask viewers to put titles to them, and they wouldn’t be able to because most of them are the same. One would be able to do so with Prey for the Devil, though, but only because everyone is wearing frocks and habits. Perhaps the makers of this movie didn’t even bother explaining the dark origins of the evil spirit because they assumed viewers would simply go along with the half-baked plot and cheap scares, but they were sadly mistaken.
Should Anyone See Prey for the Devil?
Prey for the Devil might be an OK watch for anyone who doesn’t watch scary movies often. Other than that, it is not worth the time or money. It would have been passable if it were at least so bad that it’s good, and the director had tried making it crazier and more ridiculous to make it a little entertaining, but he missed that mark. Prey for the Devil is likely to be forgotten quickly and lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other movies just like it. It’s like that episode in The Office where Michael had to use the remainder of the yearly budget. Otherwise, he wouldn’t get his full budget back the following year. This movie feels that way. No one needed, or even wanted it, but they had an extra ten million.
Prey for the Devil (2022) Official Lionsgate Trailer