Usually, when one thinks of where professional filmmaking might be found, Hollywood and France are the first places that come to mind. Although it’s undeniably true that both Americans and the French have had a vital role in the birth and evolution of cinema, people tend to forget that India possesses the world’s largest film industry, producing much more per year than the rest of the world. Bollywood isn’t the only successful foreign film market, however, as Nigerian director Sunny King aims to show us through his Hitchcock-inspired short film Prey, that genre films in Nollywood are alive and well.
Prey stars Weruche Opia as Ebele, a young woman returning to her parked car after having spent the night partying with her friends. She is approached by a mysterious man named Obi, played by musician/actor OC Ukeje, who attempts to flirt with her. She’s anxious to get home, however, and rejects Obi only to find that something’s terribly wrong with her car and she can’t leave the underground garage. Ebele turns to Obi and a passing security man for help, unaware that she may have the most dangerous mistake of her life.
While the plot here is remarkably simple, even for a short film, there’s a heavy amount of gender and stereotype based subtext that, combined with King’s impeccable direction, make Prey overflow with story and possible interpretations. Although, that’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable slasher-thriller as well. Blending Hitchcock’s suspense with intense John Carpenter style chase scenes works surprisingly well, despite never leaving the claustrophobic parking garage. The visuals are also impressive and professional-looking; if you watched this on late-night TV without knowing anything about it beforehand, you would never guess that it’s a low budget short film and not a studio-backed feature.
The top-notch performances also help sell the illusion, with both Ukeje and Opia feeling right at home in their brief yet intense roles, never missing a beat. Nevertheless, the main antagonist here, played by Steve Mace, isn’t as developed as the other characters, and sometimes lacks the ferocity that makes other, similar villains scary. This is easily forgiven, giving Prey’s modest runtime, but it would have been nice to see a worthy predator in this otherwise amazing short film.
Despite being the world’s second largest film industry, Prey is apparently one of the first Nigerian genre films to come out of Nollywood. If Sunny’s work is any indication, there’s a great deal of competently-made horror and thriller movies coming our way from overseas. Personally, I’d love to see Prey expanded into a feature film, as it could easily compete with, or perhaps even surpass, similar North American genre pictures.