Written and Directed by Alice Lowe.
Starring Alice Lowe, Jo Hartley, Kate Dickie, Kayvan Novak, Gemma Whalen, and Tom Davis.
Widow Ruth is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way.
There is an extraordinary absence of sympathetic characters in Alice Lowe’s directorial debut Prevenge – a grizzly, Death Wish-come-Rosemary’s Baby descent into the manic, mind of a woman driven to murder by her unborn baby. Surrounding Ruth (Lowe) – heavily pregnant and wholly unpleasant – are sleazy 70s disco DJs, leering reptile experts and vile cross fit junkies; as Obi Wan so declares, “it’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
Ruth, heavily pregnant and now finding herself on the cusp of becoming a single mother following a sudden accident, is entirely disillusioned by pregnancy. Her midwife (Jo Hartley) treats her as if herself a baby whilst her sweary, bitter unborn child-already embittered by the futility of existence-demands for her mother to murder.
Yet for all that makes it unpleasant, there’s something rather touching buried beneath the burgeoning psychopathy and bloody nastiness. There’s tragic reasoning behind Ruth becoming a serial killer, whilst her love for her child – albeit complex – is reminiscent of something vaguely sweet.
And within that sweetness is a pleasant, driving, righteous feminist edge. Lowe, herself driven to make Prevenge as a result of boredom induced by pregnancy, uses gender imbalance and the suppression of women as a framework in which to base each murder. The leering catcall culture still eminent is laid to rest whilst the condescending treatment of pregnant women as being disposable is gladly thrown to waste.
The murders themselves, grizzly as they are, do however lack a certain subtlety. Bodies are slashed and beaten and throats are cut whilst a man’s genitals are proclaimed as worthless with one swift slice of a blade. There’s little care to the logic of the whole affair-a killing in an office block would surely rouse suspicion what with security cameras-yet this messiness adds a certain fantastical undercurrent.
Pregnancy on film all too often is shown through the detached eyes of men; hormones running rampant, having to hold her hand whilst making quips about missing the game and Lowe – seven months pregnant during filming – has made something far more delirious and deliciously deprived than those films gone before. “I wanted it to be more this is fucking alien type shit,” Lowe said in an interview with the Guardian, and she has absolutely succeeded.
At times, the film edges into the psychedelic. Returning to her sad hotel room, Ruth puts on her copy of Crime Without Passion, watching on repeat a sequence in which an apparition of a woman in billowy robes screams as she floats towards the camera. It’s a deathly presence that Lowe scatters throughout, a motif for which she seems to base her character on. Each murder adds a further layer of complexity as she becomes more and more reminiscent of that spectral figure.
Like Sightseers before – with which it maybe borrows slightly too freely from, it’s macabre and unpleasant yet for all the murder, for all the blood and guts, the film is at it’s core an – albeit idiosyncratic-mother/child story. As to what’s next for Lowe? You can only but hope there’s slightly more to her than tales of the disillusioned driven to murder, but if she continues to make films as delectably lurid and grisly as Prevenge, count me in.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★