Here’s Why Sister Ann, aka Jacqueline Byers, Looks So Familiar

With the horror season in full swing, Jacqueline Byers-starring thriller Prey for the Devil brings audiences back to the world of demons and exorcisms. A variation on iconic chiller The Exorcist, the film stars a host of familiar faces and the last performance from Ben Cross, the veteran English actor who died during production.

Although scary movie fans had to wait out a nearly two-year delay, Prey for the Devil finally hits theaters just in time to capture the Halloween crowd for another cinematic battle of good and evil.

Jacqueline Byers as Jillian Hayes in ‘Salvation’ | Shane Harvey/CBS via Getty Images

‘Prey for the Devil’ was filmed more than two years ago

Promoted by Lionsgate as a fresh take on the exorcism subgenre, Prey for the Devil had its own demons to ward off on its way into theaters. Per Deadline, producers ended up switching directors—from James Hawes to Daniel Stamm—but then scooped up a cast with plenty of horror experience. Led by Byers, Cross, and Virginia Madsen, Prey for the Devil was filmed in Bulgaria in the summer of 2020 and seemed on track for a January 2021 release.

But production of the Robert Zappia script took a sad turn just before wrapping. Only days after finishing his scenes, 72-year-old Cross died after a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a nearly 50-year trail of roles on the stage and screen (via The Guardian).

” src=”” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen>

Landing on a release date then proved nearly impossible. Instead of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions easing in time for the original release date, the winter of 2020-2021 that followed production was a legendary mess for studios and theaters. With no appetite for timing the end of the pandemic, Lionsgate took aim at a Halloween 2022 release for the PG-13 horror flick.

Jacqueline Byers steps into her first starring film role

” src=”” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen>

Known for a variety of TV roles, Byers originally turned heads in the horror world for her brief turn in The Strain, the Guillermo Del Toro-created series that ran for four seasons on FX. Byers would appear on a series of network shows before landing a major role in the apocalyptic thriller Salvation. Byers was featured in all 26 episodes of Salvation during its two-year run on CBS, according to IMDb.

With Prey for the Devil, Byers steps into the same space originally immortalized by Linda Blair and Max Von Sydow in the 1973 classic The Exorcist. From IMDb, the 26-year-old Canadian plays a nun (Sister Ann) who finds herself performing more than just a run-of-the-mill exorcism.

Not only does the demon in question have unsettling links to her past, but Sister Ann is forced into an exclusively male underworld; in the trailer, her male counterparts are soberly warned there will be a female observing their exorcism class (from Collider). In a Movie Times interview, Byers called her character a “wounded healer.”

For the jaunt into the popular world of cinematic exorcisms, Byers teamed with horror regular Stamm. Stamm originally made a splash with the 2010 flick The Last Exorcism but also directed episodes of Scream: The TV Series and Fear the Walking Dead. More recently, Stamm directed an episode of the horror-thriller series Them for Amazon.

The rest of the ‘Prey for the Devil’ cast is filled with familiar actors

While Byers is the focus as a nun tortured by a literal demon from her past, at her side is long-time actor Virginia Madsen. Madsen may be best known for her Oscar-nominated role in the comedy Sideways, but the 61-year-old has been appearing in horror films for decades. Not only was Madsen in the original Candyman, but she’s also been in popular horror films like The Haunting in Connecticut as well as shows like American Gothic.

To lure her to the production, producers had to show that they had more on the page than another routine slasher (per The Movie Times). Citing the build-up of suspense in the Zappia screenplay, Madsen explained that she overcame her initial skepticism by the fifth page.

Also in a prominent role, Colin Salmon plays a senior priest trying to train a new generation for the untrainable task of performing exorcisms. Salmon previously appeared in two Resident Evil entries, but he’s mostly known for roles in three of the four Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond films. Christian Navarro (Rosewood, 13 Reasons Why) and relative unknown Nicholas Ralph also play young priests caught up in the whirlwind.

Filling out the main cast, the late Cross portrays a cardinal trying to make sense of the brewing demonic reckoning. A veteran character actor with more than 100 screen credits, Cross is mostly known to mainstream audiences for roles in Oscar-winner Chariots of Fire and the 2009 Star Trek reboot.

He was also the villain opposite Sean Connery and Richard Gere in the 1995 historical fantasy First Knight. Although he had been ill for some time, family members and representatives described Cross’ death as unexpectedly quick, with his health turning very shortly after completing his work on Prey for the Devil (via BBC). 

RELATED: These 4 Terrifying Horror Movie Sets Were Blessed By Priests