PREY (aka CORDES, ROPES, 2020)
Directed by José Luis Montesinos.
Written by Yako Blesa, José Luis Montesinos.
Starring Paula del Río, Miguel Ángel Jenner, Jordi Aguilar, Ana Terrasa, Irene Terrasa, Rubén García, & Espiona el Perro as Anthos the Dog!
After suffering a devastating car accident, angry teenager Elena (Paula del Río) is left the sole survivor, losing her mother and sister, as well as the ability to use her arms and legs. Bound to a wheelchair and only able to use one hand to move it, Elena attempts to cope with her new situation while harboring an anger towards her father Miguel (Miguel Ángel Jenner), whose drunken driving was responsible for the accident. Miguel has purchased a new home in the countryside with modifications for Elena to open doors, windows, and go up and down the stairs. He has also bought a service dog, Anthos, to help her. Embittered by her entire situation, Elena treats both Miguel and Anthos like crap and chooses to mope, as teenagers are known to do. But after Anthos is bitten by a rabid bat, he begins to act very un-helpfully. At about the same time, Miguel suffers a massive heart attack on the front lawn, with Elena trapped inside the house and a rabid Anthos trying his damnedest to break in and eat her face!
PREY is a mix of CUJO and MONKEY SHINES, both of which are effective films in their own right but combined together seems a few yards to qualify as believable. It’s a film full of a few too many coincidences for the perfect storm of placing Elena alone in the house with the rabid dog outside. The film does communicate a decent sense of claustrophobia as we, along with Elena, are trapped in this house with her and are up close and personal with her in the chair, fearful that the smarter than average dog will somehow work his way in sooner or later. Still, if Anthos was rabid, this is a debilitating disease and while he is supposed to be smarter than your average dog, one would think the further into this dementia this dog goes, the less of a threat he would be to Elena as he would lose the ability to figure out how to get in.
But the biggest problem with PREY is that as Elena, Paula del Rio makes it awfully hard to feel sympathetic towards her. Sure, she is a handicapped person in peril, but she’s quite an asshole towards her father and especially towards Anthos the dog, before he is rabid, that is. Maybe it’s because I had a German Sheppard as a kid and understand how loyal and sweet those dogs truly are, but seeing Elena treat the dog badly really didn’t make me want to root for her to get out of this predicament. Sure, I understand this is a story where a selfish and angry person is given a giant challenge to overcome in order to deal with her issues of survivor’s guilt, loss, and frustration, but having the central figure treat others in such shitty ways really undercuts the intent of the story. I will say that del Rio plays a self-centered and cruel teen well. It’s just that maybe she does it a little too well.
PREY is a well-made film. In order for the main problems to occur, you have to endure quite a bit of coincidences and contrivances. Still, there are some tension-filled moments where the dog is breaking into and out of the house and where Elena narrowly escapes his foaming jaws of death. It’s no CUJO or MONKEY SHINES, but it borrows some of the best parts from both of them and mixes them well. If you can look past the bratty kid, PREY definitely has some scenes that’ll keep your nails bitten and spines tingled.