“LET US PREY” (Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
The mid-’00s were a very strange time in horror; the J-horror remake movement had gone stale, while the so-called “torture porn” scene exploded side by side with the New French Extremity movement. There was a very specific theme of sadism that ran through the genre on almost every level, with horror focusing on anguish and suffering whether or not the story truly supported it. Thus, many films of this time remain far from memorable, as even though the intention to push the barriers of good taste was pursued, there was so little payoff to make the experience truly gratifying. And when watching Brian O’Malley’s LET US PREY, that era came to mind in a different light altogether: creepy, brutal and gripping, I felt as if I was watching what those films had so often sought to become yet with the substance they so often forgotten.
Surprisingly, LET US PREY has a very simple story that is intricately pieced together like a terrifying puzzle, allowing the horrors (supernatural or otherwise) to be revealed with nuance and patience. By doing so, LET US PREY keeps up the mystery of what is really going on, making the viewer doubt their suspicions and question the nature of our characters. It’s a wonderful and effective tactic, and allows the more gruesome and insane elements of LET US PREY to play out in a genuinely shocking fashion.
But even beyond the scares on display, LET US PREY tells an excellent story of a traumatized woman, whose first night as a rookie police officer leads her to a dilemma between her good intentions and her inherent anger. Of course, this all becomes more complicated when this dilemma is fueled by the appearance of a mysterious stranger, whose knowledge of many deep, dark secrets sends our characters to a desperate frenzy. From there, the film goes to disturbing heights, indulging in transgressive violence and relentless intensity, which becomes much more powerful once you’ve become attached to those with the potential of redemption.
Even with how sadistic and bleak many of the tricks LET US PREY hides up its sleeve, director Brian O’Malley and his adept crew packed a masterful punch with LET US PREY, pulling off technical spectacle as expertly as emotional character development. The script by David Cairns and Fiona Watson subverts many horror tropes while exalting others, especially in terms of identifying the role of “antagonist” throughout the film. Similarly, Piers McGrail’s cinematography paints a colorful and haunting picture in which LET US PREY exists, which definitely aids the frequent transitions from the nightmarish visions to the “real life” viscera on display. And the score by Steve Lynch is nothing short of phenomenal, providing the perfect eerie backdrop for the most chaotic and contemplative sequence alike.
LET US PREY also carries the benefit of having a legitimately great cast, many of whom are working at the top of their game in their respectively wicked roles. Pollyanna McIntosh delivers one of her strongest performances to date, acting as the film’s anchor with an incredibly physical and multifaceted performance. Likewise, Liam Cunningham is a sly beast in his role as the stranger, bringing a wry wit and deceptive elegance to a foreboding and frightening role. And Douglas Russell, Hanna Stanbridge, Bryan Larkin and Niall Greig Fulton each offer unique, impressive takes on their respective characters, while Jonathan Watson and Brian Vernal do sensational work to provide greater dimension to otherwise familiar genre cannon fodder.
While the film doesn’t quite contain the cinematic magic or gravitas to be an out-and-out genre classic, LET US PREY is one of the more satisfying and utterly savage horror films in recent memory, touching on morality plays while dishing out artful sadism of the highest order. Brian O’Malley refashions familiar fright film tropes and relationships into something much more sinister, all the while providing a somewhat fantastic atmosphere from the combination of a chilling visual composition and provocative cinematic storytelling. Throw in some incredible and committed performances all-around, LET US PREY is the kind of brutal nightmare fare that gorehounds often clamor for but rarely receive.