Prey (2019)

Rating: C

Dir: José Luis Montesinos
Star: Paula del Río, Espiona el Perro, Miguel Ángel Jenner, Jordi Aguilar
a.k.a. Cordes

“I think she dropped it, when she was attacked by the rabid weasel.” Yeah, I’ll take sentences I didn’t expect to be saying today for $200, please, Alex. We’ll get to why I said it later. The “she” is Elena (del Río), a student who has hit a rough patch after a car crash in which her sister was killed and Elena, who was driving, is left almost entirely paralyzed from the neck down. In the aftermath, she tries to kill herself, but is stopped by her father, Miguel (Jenner). He takes her to their country house, which has been modified to be disability friendly, and gives her a trained support Belgian Shepherd, Athos (Espiona), to help with tasks.

Through a combination of bad luck and poor choices, things go pear-shaped for her quickly. Athos gets bit by a bat. Miguel keels over from a heart attack. Elena smashes his cellphone, trying to retrieve it. Then Athos decides to not-so quietly quit his support animal position. Never mind that the incubation period for rabies is… /googles typically two weeks to four months, rather than approximately 45 minutes. How is a young quadriplegic girl going to fend off an assault from a rabid animal? Even if she does have a friendly weasel. OK, maybe it’s a pet ferret. But weasel is just more fun to type. Say it with me: “weasel.” I rest my case.

Considering that the great bulk of thus is Elena wheeling herself around the house, in various contrived situations, a “C” grade is not actually too bad. It did manage to sustain our interest throughout its running-time, although there were multiple moments when Chris snorted derisively. I’m fairly sure the actress is not actually disabled, as her degree of motion, etc. seemed to vary as needed by the plot. However, the script does a decent job of painting her as a character, haunted by the tragedy for which she feels largely responsible. She’s the only human on screen for the majority of scenes, so it matters that she has depth. Mind you, she’s still probably out-acted by Espiona el perro, despite the canine being paid in squeaky chew-toys.

The problem is more on the scripting side. It relies on Athos showing up as necessary to threaten Elena, then leaving when no longer required. What is he doing the rest of the time? Lying on top of his kennel, dreaming of fighting the Red Baron? Similarly, the whistle Elena has, works only if needed. It can obviously be compared to Cujo, though this does a better job of getting to the meat of the matter in a timely fashion. I think making its heroine so physically incapable probably worked against it in the end: paraplegia would have been enough. While it clearly adds to the peril, there’s only so many times you can watch somebody struggle to open a door. This definitely exceeds that number.