Starring: Bridget Moynihan, Carly Schroeder, Connor Dowds, Peter Weller
Not Rated (probably R for Grisly Animal Attacks and Language)
"Prey" is about being trapped in a small space with animals trying to break in and turn you into a meal. That's essentially the plot. Sure, there are other elements, such as the family member trying to find the hostages or the daughter who hates her new stepmom, but that's only to make the characters sympathetic. One would think that would be limiting for a movie, but remember that this is a horror flick. Anyone expecting something like a Merchant/Ivory movie should probably see an optometrist instead of this movie.
Tom Newman (Weller) is the manager of a new hydroelectric plant (or something) in the middle of Africa. He's brought his new bride, Amy (Moynihan) and his two children Jessica (Schroeder) and David (Dowds) along for the ride. While he's at work, Amy and the kids take an African safari to look at wildlife. But when David stops to take a dump, their guide is eaten by lions and the three of them are trapped in the jeep while a trio of lions stalk them outside.
This is one of those movies where the success of the movie depends on the writer's ability to throw unique challenges at the characters and the director's ability to keep the tension high. This is not an actor's show (most horror movies aren't). On that level, the film does a respectable job. There's a lot of tension and excitement, some nasty scenes of lions turning unlucky humans into a snack. On the other hand, it's a little sluggish at times, especially when it goes away from the trio in the car.
The acting isn't anything special per se, but it's good enough to elevate the relatively weak script. They feel like real people, and that's what's key. Bridget Moynihan is in fine form playing a woman who tries to remain in control in the face of horror. Carly Schroeder, a young actress who doesn't get enough roles, is a scene stealer as the petulant teen, although I don't see the title of "Scream Queen" in her future. Peter Weller is his usual reliable self. The only mistake is Connor Dowds, who rarely convinces as the kid brother. Partly due to the writing, partly due to the directing, partly due to the acting, but any time when he isn't speaking is a good time.
Pacing is key for a movie like this, and that's where it comes up short. The tension must slowly build with bursts of high intensity until the climax. But while there is more than enough tension and excitement to earn a recommendation, there are times when the film feels padded.
This isn't a great horror movie, but if you see it available, you're not going to be disappointed.