'Prey': Film Review

Prey - Publicity Still 1 - H 2019
A Blumhouse throwaway.

A troubled youth finds himself fighting for survival on a remote jungle island in Franck Khalfoun's horror thriller.

The latest effort from the prolific Blumhouse Productions certainly doesn't waste any time establishing its ridiculous premise. In the first few minutes of Prey, a disaffected teenager's father is brutally gunned down right outside their home, for no apparent reason except for the story to immediately segue to said teenager being left alone on a remote jungle island as part of some sort of demented Outward Bound-like program for troubled youths. As you may have already guessed from the title, bad things start to happen.

Logan Miller, who seems to be making a specialty of playing obnoxious jerks, judging by his performances in such films as Love, Simon and Escape Room, plays the central character of Toby, who understandably becomes upset when his guide Kay (Jerrica Lai) leaves him on an uninhabited island near Malaysia. "It's your own slice of paradise," she assures Toby, who looks like he's never done anything more physically challenging than playing video games.

Sure enough, the hapless teen immediately loses his provisions to a mischievous monkey. As Toby desperately tries to figure out what to do next, he spots a scantily clad young girl (Kristine Froseth), brandishing a knife, who introduces herself as Madeleine and promptly demonstrates her survival skills by casually beheading a snake.

The proceedings briefly enter into The Blue Lagoon territory, with the two young people tenderly bonding as she shows him how to fend for himself in the forbidding environment. Soon enough, he's happily catching fish and drinking coconut juice straight out of the shell. He also finds out that Madeleine has a mother (Jolene Anderson) who, unfortunately for him, may be a homicidal maniac. It's certainly unfortunate for Kay, who comes back looking for Toby and winds up brutally murdered.

It's at this point that Prey goes seriously off the rails with its increasingly absurd plot machinations, with the screenplay co-written by director Franck Khalfoun (Amityville: The Awakening) and David Coggeshall apparently not able to decide whether it wants to be an adventure story, teenage love story, murder mystery or monster movie. The film doesn't work on any of those levels, but it particularly fails in the last department, with the storyline's demonic creature elements so sketchily rendered that they border on incoherence. And the less said about the cheesy special effects, the better.

Blumhouse has certainly proved very successful with its inventive, low-budget approach to horror, but now that the company is spewing out movies like an assembly line, more and more duds are starting to appear. Everything about this effort, including its hackneyed, overfamiliar title, smacks of laziness and a cynical indifference to its lack of originality.

There are at least some amusing moments, such as when another kid from the boat shows up on the island and runs into Toby, now suitably attired for the jungle and proudly showing off his recently acquired skills. "You've been here six days, you're like Rambo," the kid sarcastically points out.

The other saving grace is Froseth, who delivers a fiercely physical turn as the feral Madeleine who may not quite be what she seems. For a few minutes at least, the young actress almost makes you think the pix is better than it actually is.

Production companies: Hyde Park Entertainment, ImageNation, Blumhouse Productions
Distributor: Cinedigm
Cast: Logan Miller, Kristine Froseth, Jolene Anderson, Jerrica Lai, Phodisdo Dintwe, Anthony Jensen, Jody Mortara
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Screenwriters: David Coggeshall, Franck Khalfoun
Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Jason Blum, Chris Lofing, Travis Cluff
Executive producers: Couper Samuelson, Jeanette Volturno, Alix Taylor, Priya Amritraj
Director of photography: Eric Robbins
Editor: Josiah Thiesen
Composer: Richard Breakspear

Rated PG-13, 85 minutes