Beginning with what is sure to be one of 2014’s most visually striking opening credit sequences, Brian O’Malley’s Scotland-set religious horror sets things up very nicely for an ominous and powerful experience. Unfortunately it’s never able to capitalise on that early promise and soon shows its confused and hokey true colours.
The plot centres on a mysterious and unnamed stranger (Liam Cunningham) who descends on a small town in Scotland’s Inveree, ending up in a holding cell at the local police station after being hit by a car. Along with his physical presence he also seems to bring with him a sense of madness and anarchy as a set of spiralling events begins which ultimately sees newbie police officer Rachel (Pollyanna McIntosh) getting more than she bargained for when she chose this seemingly small and peaceful town as her career starting point.
To be fair to the film, the trouble with it isn’t the direction. O’Malley clearly has an eye and a visual flair that should serve him well in future projects better suited to his directorial style. The issue is the honker of a script that has characters spout expository and pseudo-religious nonsense, with attempts at one-liners that hit the ears as comfortably as a someone banging pots and pans right next to you. The characters are all paper thin and all either abhorrent or extremely annoying, with unconvincing and confusing motivations to boot, not least of which is two seasoned officers who seem motivated by the need to fill the generic Natural Born Killers-esque self righteous roles. The exception is McIntosh’s new and well-meaning policewoman but that’s likely down to her spirited performance than her character being particularly well written.
The film attempts to build tension and momentum with a strict three act structure, each of which might might as well be signposted along the way. While it’s somewhat successful with an admittedly intriguing first segment, it merely gets to the point of waiting around for something more interesting to happen, not to mention to come along and interrupt the woeful dialogue. Then we finally get to the third act which, to the film’s credit, goes all out in an Evil Dead II-meets-Suspiria fashion but without the sense of knowing and anarchic funny of either of those.
How much you enjoy Let Us Prey will be down to if you’re willing to just throw your hands up and go with the flow. I didn’t and thus found it a silly and frustrating horror only kept somewhat watchable because of the interesting visual style and the ever-great Cunningham. He is the only one to be in any way convincing, bringing a certain gravitas to what is otherwise wannabe religious horror nonsense.