I've been familiar with Tyler Perry's films since the first one (Diary of a Mad Black Woman
) and I've never really considered them to be stellar, but The Family That Preys
is the closest candidate for an excellent film out of all of Perry's works.
The main difference between this film and the others is that Perry took risks. He wrote some truly evil characters but he also did something he's rarely done in the past: he gave them dimensions. The grey area that the characters operate in is the strength of the film. It's not one of the movies where all white people are bad and all black people are good. These characters mix together at many different points and we are left with a realistic spectrum of human interactions. Furthermore, it deals with a mature subject of black people looking down at other black people—primarily through Andrea's obsession with wealth and status, which is a largely unexplored topic in black films. While far from perfect, the depth of these racial and social issues is something I've often wished Perry would take more time to explore because he shows immense potential in writing these interpersonal relationships in a way that makes sense and is relatively believable.
On the technical side, the acting is excellent as is the soundtrack and the cinematography. The characters still fall prey to certain stereotypes here and there, but for the most part, they are interesting and compelling.
Finally, I'd like to note that Perry's other films usually have an incredibly heavy handed message to them and the one in this film is much lighter and much more ambiguous. Naturally, the bad characters and punished and the good characters reap the benefits of their kindness, but the film's lack of focus on Christianity being the answer to everything makes the pieces fall into place.
Overall, this is somewhat of a dare that I believe was worth the risk. It's got plenty of flaws, but it's also got plenty of interesting things to examine and enjoy.