Released: February 2017
Director: Alice Lowe
Prevenge has a plot that doesn’t sound promising. A 7 month pregnant widow starts a killing spree based on instructions from her unborn baby. There’s no way that can be a good film is there? Surprisingly, yes, there is.
Alice Lowe, writer, director and heavily pregnant star, manages to find a third way, between the obvious plot-expendable gore-fest or silly, comedic farce that it could so easily have become. The result is a sharp, shocking, funny, and bloody film, that will surprise with its delicate moments as much as with its murders.
It’s a very British film, and more than a little reminiscent of Lowe’s previous film Sightseers, which sees her awkward character teaming up with another social outcast, going on a camping trip, and also murdering a few people en route. It moves quickly, but with a flat, even pacing, so as much time is given to small talk and doctors appointments as there is to the murders. The result is a strangely hypnotic film. The lack of directorial highs and lows reflects the emotional state of Ruth, who has made a decision and is just following it through to the end, without hesitation or deviation.
The murderees are often not given time to become fully fledged participants in the film, but still convey so much with their few lines you do feel you get to know them.
The standouts are the horrible DJ Dan, who is so foul, egotistical and vulgar he is almost a complete caricature. The fact that he is, however, doesn’t mean there aren’t people exactly like him out in the world, and it’s easy to bring to mind a few you know yourself. Ruth’s interaction with his senile Mum is beautifully portrayed, and brings an element of both straightforward comedy and also compassion to previously brutal proceedings. At the other end of the spectrum of unpleasantness is poor Josh, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, who really helps to show how determined Ruth is to complete her (baby’s) plan.
The film comes complete with a slow reveal of motivations for Ruth’s actions, as well as for who she chooses to kill. This gives an extra layer to the film, and leaves to think back over what you have just seen and re-appraise it.
Ruth’s doctor is excellently played by Jo Hartley, and spouts so much authentic mum and baby drivel you know it could only have been written by someone on the receiving end of so much infantilising advice. Lowe was not only seven months pregnant when she wrote, directed and starred in this, but the whole thing was shot in just two weeks. That kind of schedule must have helped really get into the mindset of her dangerously obsessed and focused killer.
While the film definitely rages at society’s treatment of pregnant women, don’t be misled into thinking you are meant to sympathise fully with Ruth. She is clearly not stable, and her grief at losing her husband and the baby’s father is clouding her judgement. As teeth-grittingly sugar sweet as her doctor’s advice may be presented, hers is the only real voice of reason in the film.
Prevenge is a very dark film, but so unique in terms of subject, plot and acting style it deserves a wide audience. It almost certainly will never get one, but there is every hope that this tone-perfect, sinister comedy will go on to achieve cult film status.