Prey (Short Film) ★★★★

Prey (Short Film) ★★★★

Prey is the type of short that pulls you in, tackling the difficult topic of suicide; Ben Poppy and Kory Séan Williams take advantage of Poppy’s excellent script to provide us with a strong, anxiety-inducing short film.

A man’s life is in danger when a mysterious stranger comes knocking at his door.

Ben Poppy and Kory Séan Williams dark but pointed drama Prey shows us the strain those of us who have suicidal thoughts go through daily. Our lead, “Prey” (Jordan Turk), at the film’s beginning, thinks things are going okay in his life; he has a supportive group and a job that keeps him busy. While his romantic life is not where it would ideally be, he is hopeful. Though, today, he is having a very difficult period, and he needs support. When Phill Webster’s “The Stranger” comes knocking at his door, his world soon begins to tumble into a horrid spiral.

What Poppy does so well in his script is show how those negative thoughts that come into every person’s head can really take hold of some people who have been suffering from severe depression. Depression can raise its head from anywhere, suddenly and without little care. By having our lead opening that banging door, it isn’t just him opening the door to this mysterious person, but also letting in those thoughts he has been working tirelessly to keep back. Negative thoughts are the ultimate opportunist; give them a hint, a slither that you are struggling or uneased, and they will crash through anything to get to you.

When he is trying to convince the stranger that he is okay, that this is just a blip, that there are positives in his life, this stranger “from the future” strikes down each one with furious anger. Battering his victim’s mindset until he will only do what the stranger wants. Poppy shows us that when you suffer from these thoughts, they simply do not disappear; they stay; they fester and grow and come for you when you are at your weakest. Prey becomes uncomfortably relatable for anyone who has encountered situations like this or knows of someone who has.

While a very low-budget film, there is still an awful lot to appreciate throughout the film. The little touches in the production design, of our character’s house being generally messy, clothes piled on top of the bed instead of the away scream of someone struggling mentally. These little touches bring an authenticity to the story that you quickly subconsciously pick up on.

Filmed in black and white, Prey keeps it simple with its cinematography, with one shots intermingling with close-ups and midshots. Only towards the end of the film does the camera begin to move around, showing the desperation within “Prey”. He is fighting the barrage, and the camera awakens with him as he does. At times, you wish for a touch more movement or loosening of the static nature of how the short is shot; it remains wholly effective in the story that it is conveying.

Aiding in this are the performances of Turk, Webster, and Dontae Lindsay as “Prey’s” friend Scott. There is an urgency to Webster’s The Stranger that shows us how those dark thoughts want to win and win quickly; if we fight against them for any length of time, they could be beaten. Similarly, Turk plays the tormented lead very well, convincing audiences of his character’s struggles. He is upset and confused, and as The Stranger’s words begin to win over him, we slowly see him become that character in how he responds to Scott’s pleas and reasoning.

Lindsay comes in and immediately feels like the heart that is battling the two sides of a conflicted mind. His character must keep that last act together by being a voice of reason, by rebuffing the lines already thrown at “Prey” from The Stranger. He does well in his short time on screen, as you can tell his character is trying to figure out his next move and when to enact it for his friend’s safety.

Overall, while as bleak as a script can get, there is so much to take from Prey. The film takes its story seriously and allows the cast to shine. By playing the entire film as straight as an arrow, we, like our lead, never get a moment to think, to allow what is happening to sink in for a minute. In other films, when a character like Scott comes in, you think that the worst is behind us, but Poppy and Williams have other ideas, giving us a tense finale.

Prey is a film that excellently shines a light on the struggles of those with suicidal tendencies. You feel for this character, and when that tension builds on whether he will make that horrible decision, audiences are left full of anxiety – A strong debut from the two filmmakers with bright futures.

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