‘Prey’, Franck Khalfoun’s latest output, is a gorgeous looking survival horror with the familiar ‘Blumhouse’ spectre to neatly round off a rather generic, but enjoyable 15-rated supernatural flick.
I doubt there’s a horror review out there which doesn’t reference Khalfoun’s outstanding ‘Maniac’ remake back in 2012 as a benchmark for his potential as a genre filmmaker, and with ‘Prey’ there are certainly a number of stylistic components showcased throughout, however. there are a few issues with plot and pacing which prevent this from reaching similar heights.
The plot opens as a car jacking leaves Toby’s father dead. Blaming himself for his lack of action Toby clearly is struggling to cope with the loss. Then, following some seriously choppy editing and little exposition he finds himself on a boat, heading to a remote (supposedly uninhabited) island for a 3-day isolation therapy courtesy of a seriously questionable counselling program. Needless to say, it isn’t inhabited, and its not long before there’s some demon-eyes staring back at him out of the undergrowth, he discovers the island isn’t quite uninhabited and he better develop those survival skills tout suites.
‘Prey’ has some fundamental issues surrounding its plot intent.
Despite a seriously ambling mid-section, the films start is beyond hasty. Toby’s character essentially thrown at us in a set of briskly edited scenes which are almost montage-esk – without the 80s power ballad to back it. We establish ‘dad-dead-kid-dweeb-on-island’ in about 10 minutes of video which looks as if it should have been part of a video edited for ADHD YouTube audiences.
There’s a lot I think the audience is expected to piece together here, but no reason why they needed to – what was the rush?! Is Toby really that bland an antagonist that even the films creative team couldn’t give a shit about contextualising him?
Once on the island the film struggles to pick a direction of travel. On the one hand the film plays out like an adventure film and steadily we get to know Toby a little bit more and there’s only a hint of a supernatural presence. Even when meets another of the films characters which adds a little more intrigue, the threat level barely registers above ‘suggested’. None of this is particularly bad, I mean, the island looks amazing, the cinematography is great, the acting is passible and there’s some ‘coming of age’ style scenes between the slowing building cast which gives you the warm and fuzzies, however, despite the films run-time ticking by, its clear that there isn’t all that much going on – and in terms of atmosphere the films horror elements might as well have been put on hold.
Then, about the hour mark, the film kicks into the familiar ghost-train groove typical of Blumhouse outputs.
Here, as with much of the film, the scenes look great – about 30 minutes of pure trailer footage! The use of lighting and ambience – plus the backdrop of the moonlit jungle of Langkawi island – amplifies the threat well beyond anything the lack of build-up would ordinarily provide, and with a few well-placed jump-scares the films somehow manages to steer itself back on track.
As an overall experience the film is incoherent, but as a finale you can’t complain too much, even if the over CGI’d demon character is a little bit overdone for the films otherwise primal aesthetics.
Overall, to add one further adjective to my opening comment ‘Prey’ is confused, generic but enjoyable, nevertheless. God knows what happened in production to this film, but it certainly struggled to gain momentum in a single direction. Even the 82-minute run time leaves me somewhat suspicious that there might have been some heavy editing going on to try to speed up the pace somewhat through the films eventless mid-section, and in the end just trimmed the whole experience down to get to the bombastic conclusion as quick as possible? Who knows, perhaps that’s why the intro is cut so short – maybe it unbalanced the rest of the films content?
Anyhow, I’m speculating now; I’ve no idea!
‘Prey’ could be cool to view over Halloween for people looking for familiar, inoffensive thrills, or if you fancy seeing a haunting style film outside of the typical creaky house.