This straight-to-video horror flick is dull, cheap, and inconsequential.
The plot of director Franck Khalfoun’s latest effort Prey is hilariously baffling. The short version is that high-schooler Toby’s (Logan Miller) father is murdered and so Toby is sent to a remote, supposedly uninhabited island in Malaysia for three days (obviously very sensible) to apparently try to cope with his feelings and survive on his own. No, it does not make a lick of sense. The audience is never granted any true understanding of why this preposterous methodology even exists, as the film haphazardly bullets through its set-up in a little under 5 minutes. Before you know it, and before you even have time to settle into your seat, we’ve set off on what is ostensibly a man vs. nature/trauma survival horror venture.
It’s quickly revealed that Toby has some company on his one-man vacation: a young woman by the name Madeleine who appears to live on the island, a fact with which Toby doesn’t seem to be concerned enough to question all that much. However, the film does go out of its way to make visual suggestions that Toby may have started harboring a crush on this random island girl that there’s clearly nothing strange going on with (and that he’s known for like a couple of days?).
Anyways, weird stuff starts happening, there may be a supernatural creature involved, Toby starts getting suspicious; you know the drill because you know this movie, or at least the bones of it. Prey has nothing new or interesting to offer as a survival horror film or a creature feature, instead retreading played-out tropes with all the elegance of a shoddy student film. It’s like Khalfoun got halfway to a mildly interesting premise but didn’t think about how to actually realistically make it work before firing up production. Everything surrounding the movie is woefully undercooked — from the insane set-up to all of the mythology surrounding the island, and even to the film’s third-rate production values. Nothing here feels fully realized narratively or thematically and the markedly cheap aesthetics only further amplify how slapdash and careless so much of it is. By midway through, we’ve all but forgotten that our protagonist’s father was literally murdered at the start, as the film offers next-to-nothing in the way of investigating that grief and trauma aside from a few discordant flashbacks.
There’s some value in a few striking images, though it’s nothing you couldn’t find elsewhere in other (note: better) movies of this same vein. The ambiguity of the central conflict is also potentially interesting, and some of these story beats feel like they could actually work in a proper version of this film where the main conceit and thematics were better realized. Alas, it ends up falling into downright goofy territory once it’s revealed what Toby is actually up against, with visual effects work that I imagine isn’t a far cry away from those knock-off Redbox horror movies that have the horridly garish cover-art. That kind of off-brand rental movie is the same vibe that Prey carries throughout its entire runtime. It all culminates in a final showdown that is truly a sight to behold (in all the wrong ways), a dumb fake-out ending, and an embarrassing nu-metal track that seems to have been pulled through some hellish time vortex from the early aughts into our current 2019 blaring over the credits; an appropriate coup de grâce to this D-rate bargain-bin thriller.
Trace Sauveur has been a regular critic at Ready Steady Cut since March 2019.