Remember when you would pick out a movie based on its cover art? No? Well, I feel sorry for you then. Because the excitement and gleeful anticipation that you feel from finding a VHS or DVD with a cool looking cover is awesome. And it typically lasts exactly as long as it takes to get the movie home and start playing it. Most films just don’t live up to their bloody, action-packed covers. But that’s to be expected. It’s the old “foot in the door” approach to advertising. What do we have now? Netflix’s tiny thumbnail images that you can’t enlarge, that’s what. (i certainly don’t know how to enlarge those things) The Let Us Prey art looked pretty sweet even taking up only 1/18 of my TV screen. The scratched out typography; the red/black/white color scheme; the bloody legs of a hanged kid; and the badass lighting a cigarette with a book – all good stuff. Hell, even the title is gloriously cheesy. I was sold. The “foot in the door” worked on me yet again.
Constable Rachel Heggie has been transferred to a podunk police station for unknown reasons. It is implied that her exile is due to negative… things (? it’s vague). Her first night on the job – even before she gets to the station – she picks up Caesar, a teen delinquent, for driving recklessly after he seemingly hits a tall bearded guy. I say seemingly, because the guy disappears! Back at the station, Caesar is thrown into a cell across from one of his teachers, who’s in there for beating his wife. The police chief is a hardass, “watch your language” Christian who isn’t the friendliest boss in the world. The only other cops in the town are a man and a woman who are partnered despite the town being so tiny that the need for two cops at any one time must be nil. Oh, and the partners fuck while on duty. Soon the tall bearded guy wanders into the station (let’s call him ‘mysterious stranger’. the character is referred to as ‘the guy in [cell] 6’ mostly and refers to himself as ‘you know who I am’). The doc is called in to check him out, but instead he attacks him, yelling, “He knows!” Everyone is locked up and Heggie, the new lass (the movie’s Irish), is left to watch the place while chief heads home for some reason and the partners head out to the doc’s house for some reason. Everything that could possibly go horribly, gruesomely wrong, does.
This is one case where the cool art lived up to the product. Let me go ahead and get the criticism out of the way (minor stuff, i promise). There were just a few cheesy lines and one particular effect that made me roll my eyes a bit. Not terrible and not enough to completely take me out of the moment. (i said ‘minor’, remember?) That’s really just nitpicky. The slightly bigger problem was the muddled motivations of the characters. Characters exit scenes with little explanation as to why, when they should logically stick around or do something other than what they set out to do. My biggest gripe though, is about casting. It bugged me that the shlubby asshole cop was fucking his super-hot asshole partner. She is WAY younger than he is and WAY out of his league. It just reminded me that this happens in EVERY fucking movie. The guy with younger/hotter girlfriend/wife trope seems so unnecessary/unrealistic. It was distracting. Maybe the intent was to paint her as an even more evil character. Maybe she was fucking him, a married man, just to break up his family? (i mean, the sex wasn’t even good. when she told him she wasn’t close to orgasm, he came anyway.) I admit, it’s not really that big of a deal. It’s just something that nudges the viewer a little too far out of their comfortably-suspending-disbelief zone. But the fun of the film completely makes up for that nudge. The audience pulls for the mysterious stranger. Perhaps even more than we pull for Heggie. We want these assholes to get what’s coming to them. We want to believe in karmic retribution. So much so, that when the embodiment of shitty teen stereotypes, Caesar, is offered a chance at redemption, we are conflicted on whether we want him to take it or not. Each character’s sins are paid for in violence. Glorious violence. The height of which is the super-bloody, fiery finale. It’s a blast to watch.
THE FINAL CUT: Let Us Prey is an over-the-top, blood-soaked blast to watch. The mysterious stranger at the heart of the film is a fearsome avenging angel, punishing despicable characters for their sins in spectacular fashion, and much to the audience’s delight.