In this debut feature from Irish director Brian O’Malley, rookie cop Rachel (Polyanna McIntosh) arrives for her first night shift in a remote Scottish police station. She discovers that her colleagues don’t share her values when it comes to policing. The foul mouthed Sergeant MacReady (Douglas Russell) secretly watches porn while married cop PC Warnock (Bryan Larkin) and corrupt, vindictive PC Mundie (Hannah Stanbridge) favour sordid sex in the patrol car while on duty. Rachel is quickly established as the only good and wholesome character among this motley crew of misfits and reprobates (and we haven’t even started on the real criminals!).”
The action starts when local joyrider Caesar (Brian Vernel) runs down a mysterious stranger who promptly disappears as soon as he is hit. Caesar is locked up along with vicious wife- beater Beswick (Jonathan Watson )but they are soon rejoined by the mysterious drifter (Liam Cunningham) who gets banged up in cell Six, the name he is given from here on in. Six is a man of little word,s but with a simple look or touch he manages to penetrate deep secrets that lurk in the minds of the characters on both sides of the prison bars. Its clear that this group of ne’er-do-wells are a bunch of crazies; Caeser’s exclamation “You people are all loop-de-loop” is hardly required. Everyone has a history of violence and evil and Six is here to make them pay using the seemingly innocent Rachel as an instrument for his bloody wrath.
A Scottish/Irish co production, “Let us Prey” starts off promisingly with dark, brooding and almost biblical visuals thanks to Piers McGrail’s cinematography. The atmospheric opening sequence shows the vengeful Six perched on a dark mountain while violent inky blue waves crash against cliffs giving an apocalyptic air, almost reminiscent of The Seventh Seal. The camera then cuts to the dark empty streets of the Scottish backwater town roving past a deserted cafe and supermarket giving an atmosphere reminiscent of the dreary streets in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Unfortunately, the similarity ends there. Hitchcock is also referenced in the flock of crows that perch on roof tops and later on joyrider’s car. During the opening credits, the text of the films title breaks away and is transformed cleverly into silhouettes of black crows. Once the eerie atmosphere has been established and we are given some background to the characters, it doesn’t take long for Let Us Prey to escalate into pure horror and gore. The dramatic entrance of a blood-drenched Sergeant MacReady cocking a shotgun, his naked torso wrapped in barbed wire, hovers between sublimely ridiculous and an image of potential cult status.
Let us Prey sacrifices subtlety and imaginative shocks for over-the-top bloodshed and bludgeoning. It’s it’s moderately entertaining for the most part and hardcore horror fans wont be disappointed. There is enough action, gruesome bloodletting and impaling to overshadow the weak and lazy wise-cracking dialogue. As Rachel hides hunching in a corner of the station house surrounded by flames and the splattering of blood, she rolls her eyes and exclaims: “What IS it about this town” as if she’d had a bad customer service experience. Let’s give the writers, Fiona Watson and David Cairns, the benefit of the doubt that by this stage in the proceedings they have given up taking things serioulys and are just having fun, as should we.
There are no obvious weaknesses in any of the performances but McIntosh, who appears in nearly every scene, gives a powerful turn despite the fact the plot and script does her no justice. As an accomplished actor, Liam Cunningham does his best in portraying the vengeful god/devil character but like McIntosh, he deserves a better script and a more intelligent storyline; there is definitely room for more malevolence in his part. A special mention must be made of Steve Lynch’s fantastically urgent synth-heavy score, without which Let Us Prey would be much less entertaining than it is.