04th Nov2014

Mayhem 2014: ‘Let Us Prey’ Review

by Dan Woolstencroft

Stars: Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bryan Larkin, Hanna Stanbridge, Douglas Russell, Niall Greig Fulton, Jonathan Watson, Brian Vernel, James McCreadie | Written by David Cairns, Fiona Watson | Directed by Brian O’Malley

let-us-prey-cunningham

It’s possible that Let Us Prey peaks too early.

The title sequence is wonderfully put together. Incredible imagery of a mysterious stranger seemingly appearing out of the ocean and making his way into a sleepy little town, backed by a powerful electronic soundtrack, sets expectations for what follows to an astronomically high level. Disappointingly, the rest of the film doesn’t live up to its opening.

Focusing on the mysterious appearance of, well, Liam Cunningham, Let Us Prey was pitched before its screening on Mayhem’s opening night as a kind of reverse Assault on Precinct 13. Which is probably accurate: Cunningham is incarcerated by Pollyanna McIntosh in one of the holding cells of the town police station, alongside an assortment of other undesirables. What follows is a gruesome tale of sin and revenge. It’s right up until Cunningham’s arrival at the station that things are looking good. Each shot is atmospheric and creative, with real care in the composition and execution. Later, as things get dramatically more brutal, this care and beauty seems to be swept aside.

It’s the final third of the movie that really steps up the ultraviolence and gore, and it’s at this point that the movie and I parted company. There’s a particular entrance of one of the central characters which had me on the verge of a groan or a chortle. It’s difficult to remain invested in something when you’re jarred out of the film’s universe by a turn towards the ludicrous, and from here things get very, very silly indeed.

There’s also a really big request in the suspension of disbelief department. We’re supposed to accept that an assortment of deeply horrible people all live in the same sleepy little town, and would all be brought together on the one night.

The film’s only really relatable or likeable character is McIntosh. Each new appearance she makes seems to extend her range further, and she makes a convincing action heroine when required. That said, Cunningham’s mysterious stranger is extremely likeable in a quipping, sneering, scenery chewing kind of way. And he is, credit where it’s due, delightful fun to watch.

Director Brian O’Malley clearly has an eye and a talent, and with some restraint this could have been a wonderfully atmospheric slice of the Twilight Zone morality cake, but instead it’s a somewhat ludicrous, predictable, and unnecessarily gory thriller. Fans of McIntosh and Cunningham (and ultra violence) will likely find something to enjoy, but this feels like a missed opportunity.

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