Combustible Celluloid Review - Prey for the Devil (2022), Robert Zappia, Todd R. Jones, Earl Richey Jones, Daniel Stamm, Jacqueline Byers, Christian Navarro, Colin Salmon, Virginia Madsen, Posy Taylor, Nicholas Ralph, Ben Cross
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With: Jacqueline Byers, Christian Navarro, Colin Salmon, Virginia Madsen, Posy Taylor, Nicholas Ralph, Ben Cross
Written by: Robert Zappia, Todd R. Jones, Earl Richey Jones
Directed by: Daniel Stamm
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent and disturbing content, terror, thematic elements and brief language
Running Time: 93
Date: 10/28/2022

Prey for the Devil (2022)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Nun of the Above

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like many exorcist movies, this one is beautiful to look at (old churches, libraries, stained glass windows) but it has the energy of a sloth, as if it, too, had drifted off while gazing at things.

Ann (Jacqueline Byers) suffers from childhood trauma; she believes that her mother was possessed, and that the "voice" inside her made her harm her young daughter. Now a nun in a teaching hospital, Ann is determined to learn about exorcisms, even though the church forbids nuns to do so.

Ann makes a connection with a young girl named Natalie (Posy Taylor). When Natalie shows signs of possession, Ann is able to help by reaching out to the girl inside, rather than confronting the demon. A young priest, Father Dante (Christian Navarro), asks for her help with his sister, who also seems to be possessed. But when things go south, Ann must face the demon inside Natalie one more time and make a hard decision.

Prey for the Devil (formerly titled The Devil's Light) has a good idea in that it believes that it's time to let women into the exorcism club, and it also flips the script with the idea that one can reach out to the possessed — who are so hurt and guilty that they don't believe they deserve God's love — rather than attacking the demon. But it doesn't use these ideas for more than a handful of typical, tired exorcism scenes. (The only interesting thing that happens is that the demon makes a ceiling fan spin so fast that the blades snap off and fly across the room.)

Everything feels sleepy in this movie, and even our hero delivers her lines in soft, hypnotizing tones. (This is great for the scenes in which she cares for patients, but not so great while fighting demons.) There's no urgency. The first exorcism we see is simply a class project, with two volunteers trying their hands as if they were taking an oral exam. It doesn't help that the demons aren't even scary, consisting of the usual low-budget sludgy-looking CGI FX and a handful of bang! Jump-scares.

At least Virginia Madsen is here, lending a little class to the movie, as the doctor in charge at the hospital. And Colin Salmon is great as Father Quinn, with his gloriously symphonic, resonant voice. If only Prey for the Devil had roused itself enough to follow up on its ideas, it might have been worthy of its cast.

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