Former sitcom-star Alice Lowe makes her directorial debut with this hilariously dark twist on the myths of pregnancy.
It’s pretty common during the nine months of pregnancy to talk to the baby that’s growing away inside of you, but it’s slightly less common for the unborn foetus to actually talk back. And the chances of that child telling you to run around with a bread knife murdering people? Well, let’s just leave it at “it’s complicated”.
Yet, here we arrive at the set-up to Alice Lowe’s fantastically-titled black comedy Prevenge; the story of troubled young woman Ruth (Lowe herself), who just so happens to find out she’s ‘up the duff’ on the very day that her expectant baby-daddy plunges to his death during a climbing expedition. Holding her partner’s fellow climbers as the ones responsible, and egged-on by the angry whispers of her homicidal bun-in-the-oven, Ruth sets out on a one-woman revenge mission, dispatching the guilty souls one-by-one in gradually escalating fashion.
It’s a totally killer premise and one that’s practically begging for a midnight-movie audience, yet Lowe is very careful with the directions she takes her film in. Narrowly missing this year’s FrightFest by the skin of its teeth and instead showing up at a number of acclaimed festivals alongside Oscar favourites in Toronto, Venice and now London, Prevenge actually runs a lot deeper than you’d initially expect.
Lowe’s scripting is extraordinarily tight and there’s no escape that her Ruth is very much a crazed nutball of a woman. But at the same time, as with any vengeance crusade done right, there’s an awful lot of sympathy there. She’s certainly a woman scorned, but also one that’s deeply troubled by everything going on in her life. This is no straight-up, slasher-happy cavalcade of blood and guts; each of the murders seem to actually mean something, not just to Ruth but to her overall cause too.
From nattering midwives to mystifying employment sanctions, Lowe digs deep into the nitty-gritty world of pregnancy, making it about a darn sight more than just the obvious physical changes a woman goes through. Prevenge’s Ruth starts her war-path in the name of love, but soon finds it spreading to all areas of her psyche, marking fantastically the very inner-workings of what is far too often simply referred to as “pregnancy brain”.
It’s not all 100% as peachy as it could be; whilst Lowe herself is a total triumph, her victims can often feel a little too one-note, and at times her jet black humour doesn’t necessarily blend as well with the deeper emotions at play. There’s definitely an inner conflict at work here, between Prevenge as the cult comedy it was most likely conceived as, and the much deeper and more elaborate thriller it ended up being.
As a result, the finale doesn’t pack quite the punch you’d expect, with things taking a much more considerate tone in the dying minutes, but all-in-all, occasionally confused as it is, Prevenge is a wickedly entertaining, and massively confident debut from a fascinating new British voice.
Even if bloody thrillers about phantom foetuses aren’t quite usually your thing, this one’s well worth checking out, and Alice Lowe should be a name on everyone’s ‘to watch’ list for the future.
Prevenge was screened as part of the 60th BFI London Film Festival.