Director: Alice Lowe
Screenplay: Alice Lowe
Starring: Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley
Runtime: 88 Minutes
West Midlands native Alice Lowe has made a career out of working in the darkest and strangest recesses of British comedy over the past two decades. A marvellous talent who finally came to wider prominence after a brilliant turn in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (also co-written by Lowe), and here stamps her name into the British cinema ledger with Prevenge, her singularly voiced directorial debut.
So much about its premise borders on taboo, concerning its pregnant lead Ruth – also played by a heavily pregnant Alice Lowe – and her quest of bloody, murderous vengeance on those who have destroyed the lives of both her and her offspring. It’s a twisted and amusing premise by which the vocalisations of the seemingly demented unborn child echo through with juvenile high-pitched glee whilst egging her on to commit further atrocities whatever the cost.
A spectacular exaggeration of the odd social psychosis that tends to follow pregnancy, that constant desire for reassurance that everything is going to be okay as this being lives and grows inside your body, in what Ruth refers to as something more akin to “a hostile takeover”. The obscene lengths that people will take to cater to their child’s needs because they know best manifests here as a dream turned lurid in its mostly faceless landscape of office blocks and quaint interiors.
It draws influence from across the spectrum of baby and child-focused horror, from the obvious rings of Rosemary’s Baby and Gallic horror to Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession, it follows a long line of films which tackle the concepts of pregnancy and motherhood in nasty and subversive manners, while also bringing with it a fair amount of vigilante cinema – with a great Toydrum score that harks back to similar features.
It’s the kind of work that could only develop from a production of such a small and independent scale. Basically a collection of two-handers running across its brief running time, it allows the focus to remain on Ruth’s journey in her preparation for a motherhood she is increasingly uncertain of. The film feels rickety in some regard, but it’s only a symptom of its own ambitions being so singular and committed to the simplicity of its premise, while portraying the alienation of pregnancy in a comical way that many might find all too familiar, leaving the films close all the more disconcerting.
Lowe’s performance is a brilliant piece of method acting on her part, channelling so much weirdness and humour in her crusade for personal justice, and her talents extend to behind the camera in its cut down fashion and use of environments. There are also brilliant contributions from Jo Hartley, Kate Dickie, Gemma Whelan and Tom Davis as the decrepit DJ Dan who suffers the nastiest demise. Prevenge works thanks to the talent behind and in front of it, and a heroic effort on Lowe’s part.