Ireland has seen a bit of a revival the past few years in its horror output. There are some forgettable ones and some definite highlights (Citadel, Stitches, Grabbers). Brian O’Malley’s film Let Us Prey is a notable new entry in the Emerald Island’s genre harvest. A paranoid, condensed supernatural thriller, Let Us Prey exhibits brooding visual flair with a story that begins as an engaging mystery, but sadly loses steam at about the midway point. There’s a lot to like here, but that gripping sense of mystery the first half does so well gets lost in its bloody, feverish final chapter.
After an ominous opening credit sequence, we meet by-the-books Officer Rachel Heggie, who has just been transferred to a remote town where things are done a little differently. Pollyanna McIntosh, the impressive lead in Lucky McGee’s The Woman and Simeon Halligan’s White Settlers (which I really enjoyed), is a really compelling actress to watch. She can talk the talk but she’s even more absorbing during her silent moments – when she’s got that look of icy calculation.
On her way to the station, a stranger walks through town and is struck by a car. Rachel runs to his aid only to find the man has vanished. Shortly after, the man appears at the police station and brings a hefty atmosphere of paranoia with him. As this stranger stirs the pot, the small town’s dark secrets begin to surface.
The first half of Let Us Prey has an air of mystery that really gets under the skin. The eerie photography and presence of the bearded stranger enhance this atmosphere and once all of the main characters are set into motion, the real mystery begins.
The whole cast does a top notch job bringing weight to the intrigue, with expressive glances and smirks that belie their intentions. Best known for his role on Game of Thrones, Liam Cunningham delivers an intimidating performance as the stoic stranger who sets the gears in motion. As shit wildly begins to hit the fan, Cunningham keeps his calm demeanor and a gaze that could pierce Kevlar. I wish the script by David Cairns and Fiona Watson gave him a little more juicy material to play with, but for what he’s given Cunningham kills it.
Rachel’s exacting approach to police work does little to impress her new boss, Sergeant MacReady (Douglas Russell), who’s awfully defensive about his little police station. Russell (A Lonely Place to Die, Valhalla Rising) gets to unleash with a truly crazy performance, though the source of his insanity is a wee bit ridiculous.
As Let Us Prey gets progressively more absurd and madly violent, it remains a visually engaging film. Unfortunately that strong sense of mystery the first half maintains so well is pretty much shattered by a climax that doesn’t feel nearly as inspired as the rest of the film. It’s certainly worth a watch, however, thanks to its moody atmosphere, performances, and really, really sharp photography. Just don’t expect any mind-blowing revelations at the end and enjoy the ride.