Prey ★★½

Paralyzed girl versus her service Belgian Shepherd gone rabid, in this micro-cast animal-attack thriller from Spain. Succinct, suspenseful, and simple: Cuerdas aka Prey/Ropes is a tense 87 minutes that still feels about ten minutes too long.

Paula del Río‘s Elena is grieving over a fresh tragedy and struggling to adapt to her newly wheelchair-confined life, paralyzed after a car accident. Her father has outfitted their home with accommodations and a service dog, but soon bad luck leads to the canine going feral, Elena trapped inside, no help coming. Director José Luis Montesinos mines the scenario for human claustrophobic tension, accenting the film with psychological drama and an empathetic portrayal of disabled hardships. The Shepherd being a service dog adds a unique dimension to the killer-animal thrills, through the animal’s skills and the tools our hero has at her disposal.

Cuerdas would have benefited from more intensity, a meaner edge, a more committed finale and less dream-vision lulls; one could imagine this making an exceptional short film rather than a decent but stretched feature. But as a debut feature, this is very solid entertainment.

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