LET US PREY (OCTOBER 7TH)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
I've only been to Scotland the once - back when hiking 15 miles a day through rain and forest seemed appealing. I've always wanted to return, although the last couple of days have made me reconsider my urge to travel north of the border any time soon. The other night I watched The Unkindness of Ravens (set in the Scottish highlands) and tonight I plumped for another film set in a bleak and remote Scottish settlement. That film was 2014's 'Let Us Prey'.
As with The Unkindness of Ravens, we had the privilege of an interview with the film's writers (David Cairns and Fiona Watson) the year before last - but both our review and interview questions were all penned by our film writer David Stephens, as I hadn't seen it. Our published review was a very positive one and I knew enough about it to know that it probably wouldn't be quite as mentally unsettling as the previous evening's watch so the decision was an easy one. It's on Netflix right now so make sure you find it if you haven't seen it already.
I've always had a love for films about a small (often dysfunctional) group holed up in the middle of nowhere whilst the lingering threat of something outside (or maybe inside) wreaks havoc. And that in a nutshell is what goes on here. The always brilliant Pollyanna McIntosh plays a policewoman, P.C Rachel Heggie, who begins her first shift (which happens to begin at about midnight!) in a remote Scottish village after a job relocation. It's not long before she witnesses a young punk speeding and seemingly run down a mysterious man who is standing in the middle of the road (Liam Cunningham). After looking for - and failing to find his body - she arrests the yob and takes him back to the station. The young offender is processed and put into the cells for the night whilst our main part meets her new boss, Sgt. McReady. There's something slightly off about him but things get decidedly weirder when the two other officers on duty bring in the dude who was apparently run down earlier that night. He should have multiple broken bones but all he has is a scratch on his head. Who is he? Why is he there? And why isn't he talking? From this point on, things unravel pretty quickly...
Firstly, any film starring Pollyanna McIntosh and Liam Cunningham is worth watching. They're both terrific actors and they get to have a whole lot of fun here. McIntosh is already a firm fan favourite amongst the horror crowd with terrific turns in both White Settlers and The Woman and here her straight-laced Constable gradually lets her hair down the further the film goes on and sees her fair share of action in a frenetic final act. Liam Cunningham sidles around speaking in riddles and ominously playing with matches. The rest of the cast are very good too but it's the performances of these two that give this an edge on a lot of other genre movies of the same budget range.
Director Brian O'Malley may be relatively inexperienced in the world of feature films (he's only directed this and one other) but he deserves a lot of credit for the overall look and feel of Let Us Prey. The opening credit sequence, with Liam Cunningham's character seemingly emerging from the rugged Scottish coastline is exquisite as is the old-school synthy score. Cleverly, O'Malley sets the action within a small modern settlement however, the sense of isolation and dankness that he creates is great. Most of the story takes place within the Police Station and it isn't long before things start to feel a bit claustrophobic, but in a good way. The film also seems to have a bit of a thing for ravens as well, which brought back some nightmarish memories from a few nights previous. And where The Unkindness of Ravens makes you wince with it's eyeball related scenes, there's one here with a fingernail that's equally as horrid!
There are a number of twists and turns here but it's quite clear about halfway through what we are seeing play out in front of us. That doesn't necessarily sap all of the tension away but it does lose a bit of the nervous energy and mystery that the film builds up in the first forty minutes or so. However, not to worry, because the introduction of a barb-wire wrapped psycho soon shakes things up and leads to a thrilling finale. Sure, it's all a bit crazy and off-the-wall (some of the character actions/decisions/histories are a bit mental!) but hey, just relax and let it wash over you, because there's a lot of other stuff to like here.