Prey for the Devil is a 2022 horror/thriller directed by horror veteran Daniel Stamm (13 Sins, The Last Exorcism). The film stars Jacqueline Byers (Bad Samaritan) as Sister Ann, a young and eager nun in training to become an exorcism nurse at a prestigious institution aimed at training priests as exorcists. As she delves deeper into the art of the rites of exorcism, she is haunted by the demons of her childhood, who rear their heads again, putting her and those close to her in grave danger.
Prey for the Devil highlights a female exorcist, a long-needed new wrinkle in the genre.
Prey for the Devil did a lot of things right early on in the film. The setup is quick and efficient, exploring Sister Anne’s past early on and using it to build dread before delivering multiple exorcism scenarios to illustrate the evil at hand. Jacqueline Byers turns in a solid effort, portraying a strong and persistent protagonist. Having a powerful female character at the helm of a religious and demonic movie does feel like a long-needed step in the right direction.
Director Daniel Stamm has braved these waters before with a very well-received film from 2010, The Last Exorcism. Stamm packs in some genuinely horrifying imagery to show the stakes of what our characters were working against. Stamm’s use of body horror to make the viewer uncomfortable is consistent in all his films and it delivers several times here.
However, about halfway through, Prey for the Devil loses steam heavily. It just doesn’t quite seem like it knows where to take itself. Stumbling through a few clunky twists unaided by character development, it arrives sputtering into a final act that has little new to show us. From the Exorcism of Emily Rose, to Insidious, back to Paranormal Activity, it seems like we have ventured into every possible demonic haunting scenario. Ultimately, the bulk of the movie falls victim to the lack of tread the exorcism tires provide. Originality is simply hard to come by after the breadth of offerings this subgenre has provided us through the last 20 years. Stamm goes back to his bag, offering plenty of contortion, demonic children, and body mutilation, and in a vacuum, they do work. It’s just at the end of the day, if we don’t care and connect with these characters, the stakes feel light and we are left with some tricks we have seen many times before.
While I do really enjoy some of what Stamm has the ability to do with his directorial style, Prey for the Devil seems like an easy layup to shoot out around Halloween weekend. I was left seeking more originality from the script and the characters and while I will tune in for Daniel Stamm’s next offering, I hope it isn’t yet another exorcism film.
You can see Prey for the Devil in theaters now.
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