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She's not as scary as she looks 2.5 Stars

As requests for exorcisms rise around the globe the Catholic Church begins training priests in new schools around the globe to perform the ceremony, including in a college located America.  But the service is still restricted from being taught to women because they can not be ordained as priests, they can only serve the spirit as Nuns.

Sister Ann (Jacqueline Byers) takes an interest in the training and begins sneaking in to the classes taught by Father Quinn (Colin Salmon), with his mild support but against the wishes of Cardinal Matthews (Ben Cross). Natalie (Posy Taylor) a young patient is being treated at their college and Ann is determined to help Natalie avoid the kind of trauma and abuse she herself faced from her mother’s hands as a child.  Ann firmly believes that her mother (Koyna Ruseva) was possessed and not mentally ill, but others working for the College, including Dr. Peters (Virginia Madsen), aren’t so sure. Therapists like Dr. Peters work along side the priests, and they continue to press the church to consider illness over possession for most cases.

Ann also believes she is one of God’s chosen fighters, and it is up to her and the priests who believe in her, Dante (Christian Navarro) and Raymond (Nichola Ralph) to help Natalie before the forces of Satan can overcome all of them.

Prey for the Devil (2022)
Released: 28 Oct 2022
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 93 min
Director: Daniel Stamm
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Cast: Jacqueline Byers, Debora Zhecheva, Christian Navarro
Writer(s): Robert Zappia, Earl Richey Jones, Todd R. Jones
Plot: A nun prepares to perform an exorcism and comes face to face with a demonic force with mysterious ties to her past.
IMDB rating: 5.2
MetaScore: 38

Disc Information
Studio: Lionsgate
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 93 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Keep case with cover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 12/13/2022
MSRP: $42.99

The Production: 3/5

 

Let’s start with the obvious: You really can’t make a great PG-13 exorcism movie.  I have no idea why you would even try, but they did. Director Daniel Stamm has made two of them now (along with The Last Exorcism) and they are hitting roughly 6/10 on the Metacritic scale.  I don’t get it.  But let’s move on.

There’s actually an interesting concept at the heart of this movie that is barely explored: Have centuries of exorcisms actually been simply abusing the mentally ill? Is the church wrong to continue trying to fit religious solutions into chemical and biological problems?  Passing discussions are made here but it seems it would be traumatic for the church to have to admit they have been harming people all along.  A serious examination about THAT would be a movie worth watching.

Also barely considered is the concepts of abortion vice adoption, which the film seems to have trouble reconciling in any fashion.  We can’t dwell on the nuances here at HTF but the film depicts the adopted child being wildly traumatized & angry and the potential mother who had an abortion choosing suicide out of guilt.  Just what the movie is trying to say here is confusing, and seems to revolve around emotion and historical judgement rather than any kind of caring or support to the mothers thrust into an unwanted pregnancy.  Especially given the latest political upheavals this seems like a last minute punt, attempting to try to say something but not having the will to actually come out and take a stand.

And since the film seems to ultimately decide that demonic possessions are real and that mental illness is not a factor, we can all shrug and say “Oh you just wanted to use this as a vehicle for cheap and ineffective jump scares and not say anything interesting.  Got it.”

Video: 3.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Filmed modern digital cameras, it looks fine with moderate detail and a lot of desaturated scenes.  Nothing special.  There’s a Dolby Vision encode which does nothing for the highlights, but perhaps ads a little extended range in the dark sequence at the end.

 

Audio: 4/5

The Atmos encode is well done but nothing spectacular either.  The soundtrack is well rendered with some interesting effects added by using pipe organs and a virtual ensemble. Jump scares are accompanied by powerful stings and the final scene in a crypt has both deep rumbles and swirling atmospheric effects.

Special Features: 4.5/5

Audio Commentary with Daniel Stamm and Jacqueline Byers – I skipped this but it sounds cool!
Possessed: Creating Prey for the Devil –  A full making of featurette which is recommended
A Lullaby of Terror  – creating the soundtrack using pipe organs and other instruments
The Devil’s Tricks –  GREAT sequence for those who want to see the CGI mixed in with the plates
Prey for the Devil Cast Read: The Original First Draft Screenplay – NOW THIS WAS COOl!  More like this please!
Speak no Evil – a “real” exorcist describes his job.  Naaaaah

Overall: 3/5

Prey missed it’s shot to make any kind of interesting PoV about modern exorcisms, women’s place in the church, or th effects of unwanted pregnancies.  That’s a trifecta of frustration for me.  It also failed to do anything new in the genre of exorcism itself, adding nothing we haven’t seen before done better in other films, like the grandaddy of them all, The Exorcist. It’s a shame since the cast nails their jobs, especially Salmon who I expect to see rise and be in every other commercial circa 2025. I didn’t buy Byers as a nun tho, the “I’m a sexy Nun and we are just gonna leave at at that, I’m ok with my vows and there is no tension here between me and the priests around me” just didn’t jive with me.  Finally the ending was somehow both trite and flat, too neatly wrapped up yet leaving room for sequels too. Meh.

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Published by

Sam Posten

editor,member