Prey (Prooi) (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

As a lion wreaks havoc on the city of Amsterdam, a zoo veterinarian gets involved in its chase along with her boyfriend and ex.

Written and directed by Dick Maas, Prey is a horror comedy film with its comedy very dark and its horror a bit light.  The film takes the wild animal on the loose premise and moves it to the city of Amsterdam where the idea of a killer lion on the loose is particularly ludicrous.  The way the film develops this and adds hunters, both experienced and not so much, who once paired with the local police becomes a bit of a mess in terms of lion-chasing but a fun watch in terms of horror-comedy.  The film shows an ability to pit characters against each other in a way that is entertaining while they all face the lion threat.  The comedy is often situational and takes advantage of the characters’ flaws in a way that works well here.  The direction is rather on point for the comedy and fairly good on the horror.  However, as a horror film, it has just about no scare factor.

This is in part due to the lion terrorizing Amsterdam.  It’s made up of an animatronics lion and CGI depending on the scene.  Unfortunately, the CGI is not exactly on point.  This means that major suspension of disbelief must be done to manage to get really into the film and that some scenes just don’t work when the lion is fully visible.  Perhaps a less is more approach would have helped the film on the scare factor as the scenes with the lion stalking in the bushes or under the cover of darkness work much better than the ones where he is fully visible.  The rest of the effects are decent and work well within the film.

The cast of Prey, or Prooi in its original language, does good work here, especially considering they are sometimes running from something that was only added to their scenes after the fact.  The standout here is Sophie van Winden as Lizzy the zoo veterinarian.  She is the voice of reason here and plays her character very straight in terms of comedy, letting things just unfolds around here while she stays serious  no matter how ridiculous the situation.  Playing her current beau Dave, Julian Looman plays him with a touch of almost sleaze but not quite, he’s a cheater, but a charming one and someone who Lizzy can’t quite seem to not love.  On the other hand, there is also Jack, her ex and an experienced lion hunter brought in for his expertise and for jokes made at his expense.  Actor Mark Frost plays his quite well and his British demeanor fits the dark humor perfectly.  The cast here all pretty much play their parts as straight as they can in the face of the ordeal and insanity.  This creates a good basis for the dark and oftentimes dry humor of the film as well as the somewhat scares involving the rampaging lion.

Prey is a decent horror-comedy that is fun to watch although it does require a certain level of suspense of disbelief as the lion doesn’t quite look scary at all.  The humor hits mostly throughout, with a few jokes falling flat due to being insensitive in some case and just not all that funny in others.  Overall, it’s a fun horror-comedy with some truly outrageous scenes and some set-ups that wouldn’t make any sense in anyone else’s hands than Dick Maas’.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 13th to August 2nd.