Bad Ass Piety: Our Review of ‘Prey For The Devil’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - October 28, 2022
Bad Ass Piety: Our Review of ‘Prey For The Devil’

When the battle for our very souls is at hand, the clinical care and the compassionate care both go hand in hand….

While we’d be the first to admit that sub-genre of the possession movie in horror has been done to death and obviously peaked with Friedkin’s The Exorcist, we can also be wrong too.  Prey For The Devil allows for a take that is both fresh and familiar as it allows us to appreciate the psychology of stories like this rather than hitting us with the gore and pea soup that audiences have come to expect.

Sister Ann (Jacqueline Byers) believes she is answering a calling to be the first female exorcist… but who, or what, called her?  In response to a global rise in demonic possessions, Ann seeks out a place at an exorcism school reopened by the Catholic Church. Until now these schools have only trained priests in the Rite of Exorcism – but a professor (Colin Salmon) recognizes Sister Ann’s gifts and agrees to train her. Thrust onto the spiritual frontline with fellow student Father Dante (Christian Navarro), Sister Ann finds herself in a battle for the soul of a young girl, who Sister Ann believes is possessed by the same demon that tormented her own mother years ago. Determined to root out the evil, Ann soon realizes the Devil has her right where he wants her.

In dialing back the gore and the expected tropes that you’d see in a film like this, Prey For The Devil manages to take a different tact inside of a classic horror movie that you’ll end up genuinely appreciating.

Rather than place in a war ravaged country with a world weary priest who had to take 3 boats, a train and a mule to get to his destination, we are actually set inside of a school for exorcism in a major North American city.  It’s established early on that we’re in a medical centre as the church is taking a proactive approach to seeing if people are dealing with some sort of mental illness or are they actually possessed.

That’s why this film works, much of it is based in truth as screenwriters Robert Zappia, Todd R Jones and Earl Richey Jones have taken great care to make this into more of a spiritual procedural which is making a cultural statement more then anything.

Director Daniel Stamm (who audiences would know from his film The Last Exorcism embraces the role of the heroine here which is embodied in the Sister Ann character.  Using the sets to his advantage, at times this story almost feels like it is plucked from the DaVinci Code rather then something more macabre.  He keeps the energy empathetic as this is ultimately a story about the need to challenge the patriarchy from time to time and this no truer then it is in the catholic church.

Relative newcomer (and Canada’s own) Jacqueline Byers is simply a force here as Sister Ann because quite frankly she plays the character like a human being.  In what could end up being a new feminist cosplay moment, this character isn’t leaning into facing the devil with a scowl or a rosary that she can use as a garrotte but rather with compassion and the idea that perhaps there’s other ways of combatting evil then the dogmatic text of the bible.

Together Byers and Stamm have made a story that will still hit all the right creepy moments and scares that fans of the genre will want, but it really does allow for the kind of emotional growth and expansion into a character and an idea that could potentially have real legs.  And with Byers and Sister Ann as arguably the first female lead in a film about demonic possession who ISN’T the victim, I kind of what to see more of this unique spiritual ass-kicking.  Being pious and being bad-ass are no longer mutually exclusive when it comes to this kind of cinema thanks to Prey For The Devil, and I want more of it.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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