A pitch black, wryly British comedy from the mind of Alice Lowe, “Prevenge” follows Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree that’s as funny as it is vicious. It’s her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth’s actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father.
The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims. Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and a strange strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at the moment of motherhood. “Prevenge” marks the directorial debut from Lowe, who is a triple threat, writing, directing, and acting in the film during her own pregnancy.
Prevenge is a British comedy slasher film written by, directed by and starring Alice Lowe in her directorial debut. The film is due for release in cinemas in February 2017. The majority of Prevenge was filmed in Cardiff in under two weeks whilst Alice Lowe was really pregnant.
Film Review for Prevenge
or her writing-directing debut, showing here in Venice in the Critics’ Week sidebar, Alice Lowe returns to the grisly territory of Sightseers, the black comedy she made with Steve Oram for director Ben Wheatley. Only this is a more macabre and explicitly violent serial-killer movie, with a fainter tint of queasy humour. It provides a nightmarish satirical twist on post- and antenatal depression: its tone is bizarre, its pace a remorseless, heavy tread.
Lowe stars as a very unsympathetic character – and it’s great to see a film which rejects so thoroughly the idea of sympathetic characters – with some of David Brent’s self-pity and self-importance. I also wonder, strangely, if Lowe might have been influenced by Touching the Void, Kevin Macdonald’s documentary about a famous climbing accident.
She plays Ruth, a heavily pregnant woman with an intense and rational awareness that, despite the sentimental propaganda, pregnancy is a gruelling, painful and violent business, made even more traumatic by the condescending way women in her situation are habitually treated. The midwife refers to the baby without the definite article, just “baby”, effectively treating the mother as a baby, too.
Ruth is to be a single mother, for reasons which become plain, and is also suffering from the paranoid delusion that her baby is telling her to kill people – which she duly does, over and over again. Some of the people she kills are nasty, such as the creepy specialist pet-shop owner, and the 70s disco DJ who throws up into his afro wig. But some are nice and some appear to have no connection at all with Ruth’s current situation.
It is naturally very far from being a realist film. In the real world, Ruth would be caught very quickly, especially as one of her slayings takes place in an office, where witnesses and CCTV would be commonplace. Prevenge is more a grisly fantasy-rhapsody about a sense of invasion and infection that is, arguably, an unacknowledged condition of pregnancy.
As for the title, it is intriguing. The movie appears, on the face of it, to be a straightforward story of revenge. But prevenge could also be a way of getting your retaliation in first, a pre-emptive payback for all the bad things that each victim is presumed capable of doing.
The film’s big flourish is what happens when the baby is born – climactic and even cathartic in some ways, but also disturbing. Prevenge is a tough, dour, gruelling watch. Some audiences might well heartlessly laugh their heads off – the one I was in stayed rapt but mostly silent. It is a well made, well controlled film, and its sullenly monomaniac quality – perhaps partly a function of the star doing the writing and directing – is entirely appropriate for the subject matter.
As a film-maker, Alice Lowe might want to evolve away from violent dark comedy in future projects. But this one is gruesomely successful.
Directed by: Alice Lowe
Starring: Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley, Kayvan Novak, Eileen Davies, Grace Calder, Sara Dee, Della Moon Synnott, Jacqueline Wright
Screenplay by: Alice Lowe
Production Design by: Blair Barnette
Cinematography by: Ryan Eddleston
Film Editing by: Matteo Bini
Costume Design by: Sarah-Jane Perez
Art Direction by: Melanie Light
Music by: Pablo Clements, James Griffith, Toydrum
Distributed by: Kaliedoscope, Shudder
Release Date: March 14, 2017