Let Us Prey

Director: Brian O'Malley

Actors: Liam Cunningham, Douglas Russell, Hanna Stanbridge, Pollyanna Macintosh

Release Date: Friday 12th June 2015

Genre(s): Horror

Running time: Ireland minutes

You have to hand it to Brian O’Malley. The director knows that he’s made a grubby 80s-inspired thriller, one that would have went straight to video (look at that title), and he knows that his influences are very on the nose (John Carpenter - both in the Assault on Precinct 13 vibe and the moody synth soundtrack). And O’Malley doesn’t give a monkeys. Not a crap does he give. There’s something endearing about that.

Rookie policewoman Pollyanna Macintosh (wonderful as the grieving mum in Love Eternal) wakes up in a sleepy Scottish village and makes her way to the isolated station for a night shift. Everything is closed and no one is about... except for Liam Cunningham standing moodily in the middle of the dimly lit street. She’s about to ask the obvious when he’s suddenly knocked down by boy racer Brian Vernal, but when she checks to see if he’s alright Cunningham has disappeared. Strange.

Arresting Vernal, Macintosh finds even stranger goings on at the station: The pockmarked sergeant (Russell) is of the puritan type, hoping to cleanse sinners in the basement cells, and colleagues Stanbridge and Bryan Larkin, when not rutting in a squad car, are coppers keen to dole out rough justice. It is they who locate and lock up the injured Cunningham but the doctor (Niall Greig Fulton) called to administer first aid inexplicably lunges at the silent weirdo with a knife and winds up in the cells with his would-be victim, Vernal, and Jonathan Watson’s wife beater. Cunningham, credited only as ‘Six’, seems to know his fellow prisoners’ darkest secrets and sets about tormenting their souls...

O’Malley, working from Fiona Watson and David Cairns’ script, attempts a balancing act between the lunacy and tongue-in-cheek humour. He tries to have as much fun as he can with the violence - someone is garrotted by glass, another impaled on the leg of an upturned table - without ever fully leaning over into knowing wink territory. What stops it from being outright funny is the occasional flashback to a particularly gruesome episode in Macintosh’s childhood.

But this flashback, and any attempt to buff out the characters, doesn’t work like it should - there’s never a sense that those clomping about the screen are anything more than fodder for the explosive finale. And that finale is just too absurd to take seriously... if it is supposed to be taken seriously that is. It gets hard to tell.