Directed by Alice Lowe.
Starring Alice Lowe, Jo Hartley, Kate Dickie, Kayvan Novak and Tom Davis.
Ruth is seven months pregnant and her husband has died in a tragic accident. As far as she’s concerned, the little girl growing inside her is telling her to kill people. Some because they were involved in the accident and some because they’re just in the way.
Alice Lowe is adept at juggling. Acting (Adult Life Skills and Sightseers), writing (Sightseers again) and now directing her first feature, Prevenge. She wrote it as well, and plays the lead role. Admittedly, she’s not the first to do that and she won’t be the last, but she’s made a pretty impressive directorial debut nonetheless.
Given her track record, you wouldn’t expect anything conventional. And you’d be right. This is a serial killer horror comedy, with Lowe playing the widowed Ruth, whose husband died in a climbing accident. That’s bad enough, but she’s heavily pregnant and the baby girl inside her is telling her to kill people, some for obvious reasons and others because …….. they’re just there.
Like revolting DJ Dan (Tom Davis) who she picks up at a dead-end 70s disco. He takes a ludicrously long time to realise she’s pregnant, saying he likes “fat birds.” He gets drunk, vomits into his curly wig as he takes her home in a cab and then snogs her immediately afterwards. Perhaps the baby has a point. He makes your skin crawl, as does her first victim, another creep of the human variety who runs an insect and reptile store and meets his grisly end at the start of the film. We never know why she decided to kill him, apart from those instructions coming from inside. But the setting puts you on edge straight away, especially when it comes to the tarantula close-ups. Arachnophobia sufferers beware.
It would be too obvious, and more than a little crass, for the film to be about hormonal imbalance. If anything, it’s about a moral compass that’s completely out to lunch. And that’s because Ruth’s body has been taken over by something hostile. She’ll never be the same again. The fact that her husband is dead just makes her situation all the more acute and her dialogue with her soon-to-arrive baby is cynical and dark. Most of that is down to the baby. It’s not an especially man-hating movie either, despite most of the victims being male. The female one is played by Kate Dickie, a sharp suited businesswoman who’s acutely lonely and has had to make severe cuts at her company. But it’s Ruth who makes the most severe cut of all.
Part of the fun – and there’s plenty – is that the film doesn’t always make complete sense and, despite all the blood and gore, it’s also very funny. Sometimes you laugh out of discomfort, but most of the time it’s because of the dry as a bone one-liners and characters being blissfully unaware of how bonkers or useless they are. Best of all is Ruth’s nameless midwife (Jo Hartley), who struggles to cope with her stroppy patient, constantly comes out with platitudes by the score yet always manages to put her foot in it.
If the film has a short coming, it’s that some of the victims are despatched too early. We simply don’t see enough of Kate Dickie’s businesswoman, and she’s almost wasted in the role. And, gruesome as he is, DJ Dan has more comedic potential than he’s allowed. But Lowe herself has pulled off an impressive triple whammy, both as star, director, and writer. It’s dark fun – and Ruth is decidedly ruthless.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★