How Dark They Prey opens with an odd little vignette involving a demonic summoning gone wrong. We don’t actually see the demon, I doubt there was enough in the budget for that, but there are some good sound effects. It’s all shot in a shaky camera point-of-view manner so if that gives you a headache approach with caution. Thankfully the rest of the film was shot with a tripod and actually looks quite good for what appears to be a microbudget effort.
The first actual story “Encounter Nightly” is about Trent (Jeff Ronan, Dead Souls, Canvas of Death), the skeptical host of a UFO investigation show and his cameraman Russ (Paul Pallotta, Dick Kelly) who venture out to the middle of nowhere to interview Martha (Kelsey Nichole Black, Homicide City: Charlotte) who claims to have had an encounter with aliens. Her story may not be so odd, her husband Jeff (David Polgar) on the other hand…
The second segment “Harrowing” is set during World War II. Two American soldiers Private Lewis (James M. Reilly, Evil Lives Here, Have You Seen This Man) and Private Davis (Samuel James Pygatt, Waiting) find themselves pinned down by German fire. A German officer Bachem (Timothy Paul Jobe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Equals) stumbles across them. He, however, insists it’s the Americans that are firing at them. Not that it matters, as bullets seem to have no effect on them.
How Dark They Prey’s third segment, “Blood Beach”, no relation to the 1981 cult film, is about a troubled young man, Kevin (Josiah Schneider, Malicious Mind Games, UFO Club) who meets an odd fisherman named Leon (Marc Lubbers, Hustle, Screaming Flowers) while walking by the lake. Leon teaches the young man how to catch the fish in the lake, and about what else lies beneath its surface.
The final story “Nelly” is shot in black and white and veers into darkly comedic territory. Janet (Alisha Spielmann, Dates Like This, The Moose Head Over the Mantel) gets pulled over by Officer Doles (David Johnson, Axcellerator, Snatchers) who seems to have a few screws loose. Things become even worse when they find themselves abducted and menaced by chainsaw-wielding goons.
This segment ties in with the prologue and loosely ties all the segments together, making it How Dark They Prey’s wraparound by default.
All four of How Dark They Prey’s stories were written by Jamison M. LoCascio and Adam Ambrosio who also gave us Know Fear and Sunset. Ambrosio makes his directorial debut with “Encounter Nightly” and LoCascio directed the other three. The result is a bit of a disappointment because while the stories don’t suffer from a lack of interesting ideas and situations they have problems following up on those ideas.
I suspect a lot of the problems, as I said earlier, are related to How Dark They Prey’s obvious lack of budget. The prologue and first three stories all end on scenes that should have included effects, but apart from a very brief shot in “Blood Beach” there are none, meaning that they build up to a moment that never happens which as you can imagine is extremely frustrating. They would have been better off emulating “Nelly” which uses recreations and parodies of a couple of classic movie moments for effect. And even it still had to keep its gore off-screen.
As it stands “Nelly” is the only segment that really works, although “Encounter Nightly” comes close. Diehard anthology fans may get more out of How Dark They Prey’s other segments than I did, but to me, they just didn’t live up to their potential. With a bit better budget, or stories better tailored to the budget they did have, I suspect the results would have been better.
Film Valor will release How Dark They Prey on September 15th on Amazon Prime Video and free with ads on the Watch Movies Now YouTube Channel. And you can check with FilmTagger for more anthology films like this.