UK Release Date: 10th February 2017
Runtime: 87 minutes
Director: Alice Lowe
Writer: Alice Lowe
Starring: Alice Lowe, Kayvan Novak, Jo Hartley, Kate Dickie, Gemma Whelan, Dan Renton Skinner, Tom Davis
Synopsis: A pregnant woman is driven to wreak bloody, violent revenge when the unborn child begins to issue commands and urges her to carry out a brutal and ruthless killing spree.
It’s fair to say that pregnancy is an incredibly difficult and unusual experience for any woman. Based on the events of jet black comedy thriller Prevenge, it’s pretty clear that men have won the cushy end of the reproductive bargain. The film is the warped, unhinged offspring of Alice Lowe, who is perhaps best known for her starring role in Ben Wheatley‘s caravan holiday murder spree comedy Sightseers. Those with a penchant for jokes in the midst of bloodletting will find plenty to enjoy in Prevenge, which is akin to being plunged into an utterly mad cinematic nightmare that never lets you wake up.
Ruth (Lowe) is dealing with the struggles of pregnancy alone after the death of her partner in a climbing accident. She is assured by her midwife (Jo Hartley) that she can do this, even though she has pretty much given over control of her life and body. Ruth is plagued by her unborn child’s maniacal urges to carry out a vicious murder spree of revenge in order to take out the people believed to have had a role in his death, from instructor Tom (Kayvan Novak) and sleazy DJ Dan (Tom Davis) to workaholic boss Ella (Kate Dickie) and fitness freak Len (Gemma Whelan).
Prevenge is an entirely singular piece of work which could only have been born from the mind of someone going through the unique madness of pregnancy. Alice Lowe wrote, directed and starred in the film whilst heavily pregnant herself and has said she used the project as a kind of exorcism to deal with her own fears and concerns. It’s an eerie dreamscape of a film, punctuated with wry, sharp dialogue and explosions of genuinely shocking violence. Prevenge is a film that isn’t afraid to twist the knife or hold a scene just a few moments longer in order to eke as many laughs as possible from the horror.
The influence of Wheatley on Lowe is clearly apparent and this is low-budget British filmmaking that focuses on nightmarish innovation to make the most of a relatively empty purse. There’s an inherently episodic nature to the story as Lowe’s character visits and murders various victims, but each scene reveals a new dark side to humanity – whether it’s a sexually menacing party boy or a woman who can’t find time in among her hectic fitness regime to donate to charities. Lowe uses her darkly innovative central premise to make witty observations from the point of view of her seemingly omnipotent foetus – complete with Lowe doing a voice uncannily similar to Harry Potter ghoul Moaning Myrtle.
It’s in these moments that Prevenge is at its strongest, as Lowe battles the whims of the seemingly malevolent creature inside her. Lowe’s performance conveys vivid mood swings as she becomes sure of her murderous mission, only to frequently lapse in and out of that commitment as she is plagued by guilt and fear. Thankfully, there’s always an appealingly loathsome supporting performance to keep us on the side of the protagonist, with special praise due to Tom Davis, who turns his deviant disc jockey into a depressingly plausible avatar for toxic masculinity, with a sickening punishment to fit his crime.
In amongst the rapid-fire comedy, Prevenge never forgets that it’s also a horror film. There’s a genuine chill to some of the baby’s dialogue and Lowe pulls off some terrifying facial contortions in moments where she almost becomes an other-worldly wraith rather than a knife-wielding maniac with a baby bump. The film is an act of tonal mastery that, even if the central mystery never quite coalesces into a plausible tale, leaves the audience wearing a strange mixture of grin and grimace.
To hear more about Prevenge from Alice Lowe herself, check out my interview with the very busy writer-director-star, in which we talk about balancing comedy and horror, fear of parenthood and competing with the new Fifty Shades of Grey film.
Pop or Poop?
With lashings of Wheatley and a delightfully British sense of gallows humour, Prevenge is a remarkable achievement from Alice Lowe that combines its sharp script with endlessly macabre scenes of murder. If Lowe needed this film to excise the worries and concerns of parenthood, I’m certainly glad to have been taken tumbling headfirst into this dark rollercoaster ride.
By the time the credits roll on Prevenge, you won’t want to cut the cord.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.