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PREY (2019)

aka SOLO
Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Written by Franck Khalfoun, David Coggeshall
Starring Logan Miller, Kristine Froseth, Jolene Anderson, Jerrica Lai, Phodiso Dintwe, Anthony Jensen, Jody Mortara, Vela Cluff, Joey Adanalian

This jungle horror film soars high as long as you don’t think too much about the premise. Once you do that, Wile E. Coyote falls and the flick is kind of ruined.

Troubled youth Toby (Logan Miller) is sent on a survival excursion to learn valuable life lessons and hopefully steer his life in the right direction. It’s an extreme form of Scared Straight where the troubled youth is dropped off on a deserted island and forced to fend for himself for three days until a boat comes back for him. Turns out the island Toby is dropped on isn’t so deserted and an ancient evil god trapped there has the pampered kid in its sights.

PREY has some great cinematography. The jungle atmosphere is thick and lush. The whole film looks well made (it’s a BlumHouse production, so it had some money behind it). The movie has some enjoyable thrills and quite a few genuine scares. The acting isn’t the best, but it isn’t distractingly bad. Despite the fact that Logan Miller’s character Toby learns survival skills out of the blue in montage, he still is very likable. As is the jungle girl Madelaine (Kristine Froseth), who of course, has straight white teeth, manicured eyebrows, and seems to have the ability to have dirt slide right off of her. I liked the story, for the most part as it introduces us to an antagonist that isn’t your run of the mill ghost or zombie. There is a ton going for PREY and I almost wanted to give it my wholehearted recommendation when the credits rolled.

Then I started thinking about the whole premise. Who in the hell thinks it’s a safe method of intervention to send a pampered rich kid alone into an untamed jungle island for multiple days? Why wasn’t the island searched and guaranteed safe to live on for participants in this gonzo therapy? These are just some of the nagging questions I had after the dazzle of the film faded from me. I will believe in werewolves, vampires, walking deceased, and wise-cracking dolls as long as the scripters try to have it all make sense inside the movie these threats reside in. But when plot holes of this size are made evident, the film completely falls apart and I just can’t back it. There are plenty of ways to get Toby onto the island in order to face this threat; a storm throws the boat off course, the leader of the therapy team is a sadist, the ancient god compels the counselors to bring it fresh meat via this intervention team. No one even tries to make the first domino believable, so despite the fact that the rest of them fall with precision, creativity, and vision—my suspension of disbelief is still broken by that faulty first beat.

PREY has some great scares and some wicked atmosphere. There are multiple twists and turns throughout that had me on edge. I even dug the final scare. But no one thought to think through the beginning. Logistics be damned, the whole movie really does require you to toss out any rational thought in order to enjoy it. If you’re able to do that, what comes after the kid is left on the island is fun stuff. Just pray you don’t start thinking too hard while watching PREY.