The Devil’s Prey: A Critique of the School of Good and Evil

In all ways in all places…

American culture being what it is, Catholic imagery did not wait for James Wan to parasitize Hollywood horror cinema. Of course, evidence of this The Exorcistthe most famous of the films to have drawn from the demonic chapter of the Bible (how does it not exist?), including Daniel Stamm (director of The Devil’s Preybut also of last exorcism) is one of many heirs. Since 1973, kids or girls writhing while reciting swear words are almost the distinctive signs of a genre in its own right, not particularly rich in great films…

In recent years, however, thanks to the “expanded universe” Conjuring, the blessed asses totally dominate, neck and neck with Blumhouse (and again), the American box office. Upturned crucifixes, serious-looking curetons, automatic watering with holy water and of course exorcism sessions galore… the sacraments have become archetypes. When Friedkin assumed questioning his own faith by exploring its extremities, the sub-Conjuring prefer to transform American trinkets into clichés to be over-exploited, even if it means gradually rehabilitating the crooks who have best manipulated them.

Our face at each new jump-scare

A traditionalist approach not far from its peak in Devil’s Prey and its history of apprentice exorcists treated with such seriousness and such a judgmental, even bigoted first degree, that it could be a spin-off of the debate on “the forces of evil” from CNews. In this pompous and cathodic rereading of Jujutsu Kaisen, the apprentice exorcists are a band of young handsome kids who take notes in the amphitheater before going to fight with the forces of evil in the basement. Activity in which the courageous nun Sister Ann would love to indulge (Jacqueline Byers), persuaded to have always had a connection with the forces of evil, proven, of course.

A postulate that could have been more amusing once removed from the shackles of horror cinema. In this case, the exorcism sequences and other scary scenes are less rat-races than fairs with predictable jumpscares, ticking all the boxes with impressive enthusiasm: exorcisms are numerous, holy water fills basins and the possessed climb to the ceiling at the slightest incantation. Fortunately, the Church, in its great kindness, has dispatched rebellious nuns and disciplined priests to defeat the forces of evil… and defend its values.

The Devil's Prey: photoNeill Blomkamp’s famous Vatican Task Force

… He only speaks of the Good God

Because it is no longer just a question of regurgitating the clichés of the exorcism film with sauce Harry Potter for teenagers in need of artificial jumps, but to conceal, in ambush behind their false playfulness, a particularly rancid devout perspective. It is all the more vicious in that, in addition to the innocuous veneer of a haunted house tour, it adorns itself with the trappings in vogue in Hollywood cinema of the moment: the heroine, a brave nun with a difficult childhood, actively campaigns to integrate a male-only course.

An improbable imitation of the so-called “post-MeToo” writing in a Catholic environment, which in fact acts as a decoy: in the end, our muse of the convents does not create a precedent, quite the contrary, and rather reinforces the conservative system in its most nauseating ideas. Indeed, as her personal story unfolds, a literal demonization of unwanted motherhood emerges, culminating in an explanatory flashback and an “amateur” exorcism sequence with dubious implications to say the least. Obviously, to absolve her sins and free herself from the devil, the poor girl will have to exercise her maternal instincts on young Natalie (Posy Taylor).

The Devil's Prey: photo, Jacqueline ByersYou will be a mother, my daughter. No choice.

Welcome to the proselytizing dimension of catho-porn, the last stage of its evolution which, under cover of exorcising the personal demons of its characters, justifies its moral injunctions by the presence of the devil and company, as in the good old days. The prey of the devil of the title necessarily has something to reproach himself with, that is to say, having escaped the fate that the Church has in store for him. His journey will therefore consist of returning to the right path, with a smile of course.

Like one of its Chekov rifles, an instrument of torture described as belonging to another time in the first act… before resolving the plot in the third, the film subtly refers to the most archaic reasoning (Anyone interested in how the apprehension of mental illness has evolved risks choking many times), while trying to persuade us of the innocence of its formatting. Vade Retro!

The Devil's Prey: Official Poster