Prevenge is an impressive film on many different levels. Written, starring, and directed by Alice Lowe, and shot on a modest budget in just two weeks, Prevenge could have easily been just another cheesy addition to the slasher genre with a clever gimmick. Alice Lowe plays Ruth, a pregnant woman whose unborn child urges her to go on a killing spree. Based on that premise alone, it’d seem that this film would be a fun B-Movie you’d watch when you wanted to turn your brain off and enjoy something wacky and wild, but Prevenge is far deeper than that; it’s a thought-provoking, visually stunning film with just the right amount of humor to balance out some very gruesome and shocking death scenes.
“At times it feels like a cross between American Psycho and the original British The Office series….”
The very first scene sets the tone; you’re in for a movie that takes itself quite a bit more seriously than you’d be anticipating; as Ruth’s vengeful rampage plays out, we get a blend of bleakness and desert dry humor that compliment each other rather splendidly. At times it feels like a cross between American Psycho and the original British The Office series; you have these very surreal moments working in tangent with horrific violence broken up by Alice Lowe’s wonderful sense of wit and comedic timing. This is a unique cornucopia of a cinematic experience, and it makes for one of the most interesting and compelling horror films I’ve watched in recent years. While I did enjoy Get Out, and I think that film has more socially important things to say, it looked and felt like a big budget horror film; Prevenge is an art house film that will make you laugh at it’s preposterous premise, fall in love with it’s leading actress, chuckle at the razor sharp wit the dialogue spits out, and gasp at the horrifically unsettling violence that is guaranteed to make even the most jaded horror fan queasy.
This film made me downright squeamish, and that says a lot. I’m a fan who’s seen it all, or at least I thought I had. Going with the theme that pregnancy is a gross, frightening, and unpleasant forfeit of control; the baby growing inside of you dictates your bodily functions, food cravings, and emotions This fits perfectly with the concept of Ruth’s baby persuading her to kill. Throughout the film, characters look upon Ruth with pity, disgust, and repulsion; a few even sexualize her pregnancy like a fetish. Prevenge is a perfect commentary on the less glamorous aspects of pregnancy and human reproduction. You feel for Ruth when she’s treated in ways that dehumanize her. Alice Lowe, who actually was legitimately pregnant during the making of this film, is absolutely marvelous. She treads a fine line between vulnerable and downright cruel. She’s the most likeable serial killer I’ve come across in recent memory, and as her story and motivation unravels, you find yourself somewhat siding with her. Lowe is the absolute highlight in this film; she is brilliant.
“…characters look upon Ruth with pity, disgust, and repulsion; a few even sexualize her pregnancy like a fetish.”
The rest of the cast is fantastic, specifically Tom Davis as DJ Dan, a balding karaoke host and Ruth’s would be one night stand. DJ Dan is quite sleazy and unpleasant, making his scenes with Ruth absolutely awkward and cringe worthy. Game of Thrones alumni Gemma Whelan and Kate Dickie play Len and Ella, respectively. Len is an athletic woman Ruth encounters in one hilariously dark scene I refuse to spoil for you; these scenes are probably my second favorite in the film, right behind everything involving DJ Dan. Ella is a woman conducting a job interview for Ruth; she acts absolutely disgusted and repulsed by Ruth’s pregnant appearance, and you’re chomping at the bits to see her meet a grisly end. It’s a real testament to Whelan and Dickie’s acting abilities, as I hadn’t recognized them from GoT until it was later pointed out to me. Jo Hartley plays Ruth’s midwife, she’s kind and sympathetic, especially when Ruth is being offensively curt towards her. Kayvan Novak plays Tom, a climbing instructor Ruth has taken a particularly creepy interest in. He’s only briefly in the film, but he’s charming and he has an incredibly intense scene.
The films flaws are only minor; it kind of drags at times. There’s some really beautiful shots thanks to cinematographer Ryan Eddleston, but some shots linger a bit too long and I found myself thinking “Okay, get back to the story, please.” I also felt that the voice for Ruth’s unborn child was a bit silly, it sounds like a grown woman trying to sound like a child; I think it would have been a bit more unsettling if they’d actually used a real child, and if they did use a real child, well…they should have used another one, I guess. That voice just came off as silly and distracting. Aside from these superfluous complaints, I really do recommend this film to anyone with an affinity towards dry humor and slasher films. It’s an odd combination, but it’s an odd combination that quite honestly works.
Prevenge (2017). Written and Directed by: Alice Lowe. Starring: Alice Lowe, Tom Davis, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley, Kayvan Novak.
9 out of 10