Available on VOD
Berenice Bejo as Claire
Gregoire Colin as Nathan
Isabelle Renaud as Maire
Francois Levantal as Nicolas
Joseph Malerba as David
Fred Ulysse as Eric
Directed by: Antoine Blossier
The New Wave of French horror has brought us such films as Alexandre Aja’s High Tension, David Moreau & Xavier Palud’s Them, Xavier Gens’ Frontieres, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury’s Inside, Jacques-Olivier Molon & Pierre-Olivier Thevenin’s Humans, David Morlet’s Mutants, Abel Ferry’s High Lane, Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher’s The Horde and Franck Richard’s The Pack. Like all cinematic trends, the films that make up this movement vary in quality but as a whole, this ongoing wave of new French horror has truly helped breathe much needed life into the world of European horror films.
That said, it’s interesting to note that all the films in this movement thus far have been variations on three horror subgenres: the psychopath film, the rural massacre film and the zombie film. The trend now throws its hat into the “nature run amok” subgenre ring with director Antoine Blossier’s debut feature Prey.
The film opens with a visually arresting sequence detailing the grisly discovery of a pack of deer that have been killed by running into an electrified fence that surrounds the home of a wealthy French family. What could have frightened the animals so much? Would it have anything to do with the chemical burns the family members are finding on their bodies? How does the nearby family-owned factory figure into these strange occurrences?
A young man named Nathan, boyfriend of the family’s daughter, teams up with the daughter’s grandfather, father and uncle. The four men arm themselves and head out into the woods to find the answers.
All questions are resolved quickly with shades of John Frankenheimer’s Prophecy as it’s revealed that chemicals produced by the family factory are the cause of the skin damage. More pressingly, these same chemicals have caused the local wild boar population to become incredibly aggressive, putting our group of hunters in grave danger as they become the prey of the film’s title.
Director Blossier opts for a mostly off-camera depiction of the attacking boars, which will be refreshing for those audience members fearing a Syfy Channel-style onslaught of CGI animal assaults. However, the key problem that undermines the film as a whole is that it’s never as tense or suspenseful as it needs to be, which prevents it from being a success despite being a slick, very well shot (by cinematographer Pierre Aim) piece of work.
Also problematic is the film’s short running time of less than 80 minutes, leaving it feeling underdeveloped. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a tight, compact film (such as the aforementioned Inside, which is a stunner) but since Prey fails to ignite, you definitely feel short-changed as a viewer.
One particular and unique strength of note is the integration of the family themes into the film, established early on with Nathan being treated as an inferior outsider by his fellow hunters and culminating in a highly memorable ending that recalls the twisted familial loyalty on display in James Watkins’ excellent “killer kids” film Eden Lake.
While PREY is ultimately (far) too slight and too familiar to satisfy as a whole, there are enough strong points on display to make me very curious to see what director Antoine Blossier does next.
Fans of porcine horror who have attempted to satiate themselves with films such as Prey, Daddy’s Deadly Darling (aka Pigs), Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback, (the climax of) Hannibal and James Isaac’s Pig Hunt will have another offering in 2011 as Magnolia Pictures’ Magnet Releasing brings the South Korean film Chaw to American screens some time this year.