Written and directed by Alice Lowe
Screened at SXSW 2017
Premiering at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, Prevenge isn’t really a cautionary tale for motherhood so much as it is a lighthearted slasher dealing with a pregnant woman’s descent into madness from a combination of raging hormones and unconsolable grief. Walking the line between dark comedy and revenge horror, writer, director and star Alice Lowe channels Abel Ferrara’s guerilla-style stalker films with her keen sense of comedic timing – as seen in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers.
Imagine if Ms.45 was seven months pregnant, and you’ll start to get the idea.
Every man Ruth (Lowe) meets is a potential victim just because of what’s between his legs. That cursed member tortures her every day now that Ruth’s baby won’t stop harassing her from the womb, convincing her in an adorable but menacing baby voice that they all must get what’s coming to them. Granted, most of the men Ruth encounters or sets her sights on are total scumbags; but even when she meets a sweet man with whom she has a real connection, he still has to go. Even women aren’t safe if they happen to set Ruth off, allowing for some sequences where the men in the surrounding area are granted a short reprieve.
The focus is really on the relationship Ruth has with her unborn baby and whether it is really influencing her to kill, so Prevenge never delves into sexual politics and, as a result, doesn’t feel like an attack on the male race. Lowe makes Ruth so relatable, funny, and disturbed that she never comes off as some sort of militant on a mission. The murders themselves are carried out in an almost childlike way, with one of the standout scenes involving “Game of Thrones” star Gemma Whelan as an athletic boxer who sets Ruth off simply because she sees recreational sports as utterly pointless. Seeing Yara Greyjoy fight for her life against a pregnant, knife-wielding psychopath hurtling insults and quick quips would be the centerpiece of most movies, but here it’s just one of many great moments.
Through flashbacks, the true motivation for Ruth’s killing spree is slowly brought to life, adding a thread of sentimentality and twisted justification to her actions. Quiet scenes between mother and baby (where Lowe essentially acts with and plays off of her baby bump) are surprisingly sweet even if they are unavoidably macabre and demented. Comparisons to Henenlotter’s Basket Case and Ferrara’s Driller Killer can be drawn, but Prevenge isn’t a part of the New York City slime punk movies of the Eighties. It is unabashedly British, embracing a wry sense of humor with an absurdist premise that complements Lowe’s sensibility and plays to her strengths wonderfully.
Having previously contributed to Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, appearing in Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, and Ben Wheatley’s dark comedy Sightseers and the cult horror classic Kill List, Lowe seems to have birthed Prevenge out of those films to create a perfect vehicle with which to flex her muscles. Prevenge is too funny to be disturbing and too disturbing to be dismissed.