Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'Let Us Prey' (2014)
Not a Boring One-Horse Town...
I'm really becoming a huge fan of Pollyanna McIntosh. While White Settlers was a complete flop, her acting easily stood apart from the movie's constant letdowns. Now we find her here in a role she totally deserves in a movie that tried a lot harder to really help her shine as an actress... spit shine, but at least they tried.
There was a lot to like about this movie, from its biblical context to its gritty atmosphere. But honestly, like a lot of supernatural horrors, they try to shoe horn too much into too little space. You hear a lot about the size of this supposed 'one horse town' and like the movie Hot Fuzz it's intended to give context to the enormity of what's about to go down in this setting’s tiny police station. But here's the thing, Hot Fuzz used that perspective to emphasize the outlandish nature of what was almost a paradoxical situation for the purpose of comedy. Something so brilliantly fucked up, happening in such a tiny Scottish hamlet can only be described as oddball, hence comical.
Now that doesn't mean it can't work for horror. Quite the opposite really. While there is a sense of comedy to the ridiculousness of something worldly going down in a little village, it can help to emphasize the helplessness of the people involved. But simplification is vastly important to a plot like this. The smallness of the of the town is supposed to lend perspective, not try to size up the worldly event. Therein lies the split between comedy and horror. So, let me explain where this movie fucked that up...
This movie can be summed up in one line spoken by Pollyanna's character towards the end. "What the fuck is wrong with this town?!" And she's got a good fucking point! This supposed 'one horse town' has not one, but two, count them TWO fucking serial killers. Two... Let that sink in. And that just highlights the problem this movie keeps running into. It's trying to shoe horn way too much into its plot. This one horse town isn't big enough for two fucking serial killers and neither is the god damn plot! Look, I'm sure it could happen, but we just don't have that kind of time. Pick two characters, three tops, delve into the importance of their backgrounds, skim the rest.
I would TOTALLY be cool with the movie having one serial killer. Hell (pun intended), they totally needed at least one for a primary antagonist. The police chief was the best candidate, so it's not like I disapprove. I even liked his design. A self hating homosexual with a biblical mean streak. It fits the motif of the movie, after all. But did this movie really need a mad scientist doctor with a god complex? Try a little simplicity people! There's just too fucking much stuff in this movie stew. Develop the female lead, of course, develop the serial killer police chief. Hell (literally), develop the delinquent punk who ran over some chick, panicked, fled the scene, and left her bleeding in a ditch. But you simply don't have enough room to develop those three, and the two adulterous cops AND a second serial killer. You have to just skim over them like you skimmed over the wife beating teacher.
Tropes exist because, you don't have time to do complete background development on every single fucking character. The reason why cliché is so damn important is to assist in showing your characters to the audience without needless exposition. And you can use this to make the character relatable. Look, this movie wasn't half bad, it just wasn't quite right.