Let Us Prey review: Gore on, enjoy this blood-soaked romp
It may not be a classic, but Andrew Johnston says there's enough guts, gore and violent death to enjoy this 90-minute bloodbath
If Let Us Prey sounds like it should be the title of a Midsomer Murders episode, well, to be fair, it once was. But the film Let Us Prey is a rather more salacious prospect than DCI Barnaby traipsing around the idyllic English countryside investigating the deaths of pensioners. Irish director Brian O'Malley's debut feature gleefully embraces its 18 certificate, ladling up the blood and guts like the 1980s never ended.
The action takes place in a remote Scottish town, where everyone appears to have gone to bed by 9pm - everyone, that is, except local troublemaker Caesar (Brian Vernel) and new-cop-on-the-block Rachel Heggie (Pollyanna McIntosh). When PC Heggie witnesses Caesar plough his car into a tall, bearded man, who promptly vanishes, she arrests him, and a hunt for the mysterious, would-be victim is on. Soon, the taciturn, uncooperative stranger (played with relish by Dublin electrician-turned-actor Liam Cunningham) is in custody, alongside a host of insalubrious felons.
And that's exactly where Cunningham's anti-hero - not given a name, but referred to in the credits as Six - wants to be, as he is in fact a Grim Reaper-style figure, come to punish the sinners. (Don't worry about spoilers, this is all heavily suggested in the trailer.)
Cue a delirious round of violent death scenes, each of which would warrant a double-page spread in Fangoria magazine and an interview with the special effects bods to explain how they did it. The kills, including by means of jail cell bars, broken window pane and battering ram, are portrayed in unflinching close-up, and show you don't need computer-generated imagery to create a feast for the eyes, albeit in this case, one best viewed through the cracks between your fingers.
Sadly, Let Us Prey's characterisation and dialogue aren't quite up to the same standard. Writers Fiona Watson and David Cairns must have received some amount of speeding tickets, as they seem to seriously have it in for the police. Aside from PC Heggie, the officers in Let Us Prey are a range of adulterers, hussies and straight-up psychopaths. In real life, the cartoonishly hostile reception meted out to fresh recruit Heggie would see the whole division shut down and investigated by a workplace harassment tribunal.
But this isn't real life; it's a horror movie, and unashamedly so. It's refreshing to see a director so clearly in love with the oft-maligned genre, and there's much enjoyment to be had in spotting the steals from other films.
There's a generous helping of John Carpenter, from the Halloween-esque synth score to the enclosed police station setting, reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13. There are also nods to The Wicker Man, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Saw, even The Terminator in McIntosh's steely, beleaguered heroine and the fire-ravaged climax.
Let Us Prey isn't a classic by any means - but for good, honest, gore-soaked fun, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half.