By Tom Moore
Being a die-hard horror fan, I’m always on the lookout for new, original stories that are ready to unleash new horrors on viewers. That’s what drew me to Franck Khalfoun’s newest film, “Prey” – an abandoned island creature feature that’s strong enough to look past its flaws.
The film follows Toby (Logan Miller), a high school senior who is sent to a rehabilitation program after his father (Anthony Jensen) is murdered by carjackers. In this program, Toby is forced to stay on an uninhabited island as his final test in order to “find himself” and work through his issues. At first, Toby finds that the island is truly uninhabited until he meets a young girl, Madeline (Kristine Froseth), that says she’s been on the island for a long time with her mother (Jolene Anderson). So, while Toby has to do deal with the natural elements of the island and the animals that inhabit it, he also must survive an evil presence that comes out at night.
Right from the start, I was actually very impressed with how Khalfoun shows his, as well as fellow writer David Coggeshall’s, story as the opening is very enticing. Through the use of polaroid photographs being taken over the opening credits, Khalfoun does a nice job giving viewers a glimpse of what’s to come and get them thinking as to what Toby will discover on the island. With Toby’s opening, things are a little more complicated and there’s definitely things with the logic and believability of the film that viewers will have to buy into in order to not constantly question things. Like how Toby’s mother can just send him away on a program puts kids on an island by themselves for three days or how the program would be okay with Toby staying on the island alone when he literally falls out of the boat into open water.
“Right from the start, I was actually very impressed with how Khalfoun shows his, as well as fellow writer David Coggeshall’s, story as the opening is very enticing.”
However, once Toby reaches the island and things actually start to get going, it’s easy to forget about that stuff and settle in to enjoy the solid direction from Khalfoun and a fun performance from Miller. There’s a great scene when Toby arrives on the island where he’s talking to himself as he’s building a shelter, where Khalfoun does a nice job using camera angles to cut back and forth while Miller delivers some fun dialogue. It even ends on a funny note and it’s a fun little scene that introduces viewers to Toby’s personality that Miller displays throughout the rest of the film. Miller provides viewers an entertaining guiding force through the island as he explores and survives all of the natural and supernatural elements the island has to offer.
It’s nice to see the elements actually affect him as Toby become much dirtier and he becomes more disheveled and distraught the longer he’s on the island. Even interactions with animals aren’t too friendly and Khalfoun creates some great moments by capturing Toby from afar or from a different angle as if he’s being stalked by something – which makes sense because when night falls, he actually is. When night falls, the film’s more horrific elements come out play and there’re some well-crafted sequences that’ll definitely speed up viewer’s heartrates. There’s an interesting scene with Toby’s program leader (Jerrica Lai) being teased with a flashlight in the jungle and a quick face-change moment, later in the film, that made me smile because of how creepy it was. Even the creature design is interesting and fits with the island’s supernatural secrets and Khalfourn does a nice job building up the creature’s presence by keeping it hidden in the shadows.
Toby also has an interesting arc that’s built with him overcoming his grief and rising up against the creature – essentially no longer becoming prey. Throughout the film, there’re actions and moments where Toby’s is reminded of a moment with his father and how he couldn’t stop his murder. Even though I wish these moments were stronger and I actually think they could’ve been if Toby was the one attacked rather than his father, they’re still touching and create some great empathetic feelings that make Toby’s rise to action stronger. The parallels work and Toby’s grief about his father, and the loneliness he feels from it, also make his relationship with Madeline a little more believable.
“Prey” is a solid horror flick that will satisfying anyone looking for some easy to enjoy scares and an original horror movie that’s fun thanks to Miller’s performance.”
Their relationship is a little strange at first, as Madeline’s character isn’t fully shown at first and it’s a little hard to pin down the purpose in the film, other than being a romantic interest for Toby. However, through some conversations about their family issues and both of them feeling alone, it makes sense why they’re a little drawn to one another and grow some care. I’m not saying it’s perfect, because it’s definitely a little forced with how Toby simply won’t leave without her, but it does tie back to Toby wanting to protect her because he couldn’t do the same for his father.
Unfortunately, Toby’s solid arc is completely undercut by the film’s overuse of plot twists in its final act. There’re really two that come into the final act and the first one actually isn’t bad. It’s the kind of twist you sort of see coming because of how Madeline is used in the film but is still effective because of how Khalfoun teased it in the opening of the film. However, the second plot twist that comes right at the end makes Toby’s arc completely pointless and while it wants to leave viewers with a satisfyingly scary, last-second ending, it just leaves them a little disappointed.
So, even for its shortcomings, “Prey” is a solid horror flick that will satisfying anyone looking for some easy to enjoy scares and an original horror movie that’s fun thanks to Miller’s performance.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Signature Entertainment presents “Prey” on Digital HD 28th October and DVD 4th November 2019