Alice Lowe’s Prevenge is the latest in a long line of British black wit. A revenge story told comedically through the pregnant Ruth, increasingly under the control of her murderous foetus.
The story of the film is at once comical, yet dark and twisting, the narrative flows from Ruth’s trouble with her own demons, the circumstances surrounding her late husband’s death, and the growing malice in Ruth’s dear baby to the eventual carnage that ensues, the mystery of her husband’s death growing all the while as Ruth’s own motives reveal themselves. Throughout all this we’re left questioning Ruth’s reliability, is her baby in control at all or is Ruth just shifting the blame from herself?
Lowe’s directing is impressive as it stands before we even consider her performance in front of the camera as well as behind it. The shots are simplistic, almost minimalist, and we’re fortunate the camera doesn’t careen wildly like so many thrillers so we can actually leave the theatre without vomiting. The tone of the film is set almost seamlessly by the layout of every shot. Often we’re watching Ruth sitting on a couch or in an office, spending most of the film building an increasingly ominous story through well written dialogue that showcases Lowe’s humour over explosive action.
This makes all the scenes where Ruth kills in the name of ‘prevenge’ all the more impactful. The standout example of this is Ruth’s first time on the hunt since we know her true motives, in a disco themed night at a pub, the cheesy dancing of predator and prey, bathed in flashing coloured lights, garnered genuine laughter from the audience in the cinema. The slasher element of the film is legitimately funny in a sardonic way that’s easy to laugh at despite the overbearing misery of Ruth’s life.
The soundtrack to Prevenge is heavy in synth, reminiscent of recent great horrors like my much beloved You’re Next. The music hangs heavy and low in the ear but with a sharpness to it that only great electronic scores can achieve and it fits the tone of the film perfectly, and synth soundtracks like this are a trend I’m more than happy to see being used by horrors, a feature also seen in greats like It Follows.
Every single character in the film is, for lack of a better word, insufferable. Now don’t get me wrong, I love every single one as well-written characters, but they’re either morally repugnant or just plain annoying people, the type of person you’d sneer at in real life when they weren’t looking (if you were the type of person to act in such a way, as I’m sure none of us would). It makes for a marvellous character study in which Ruth, despite all her atrocities, seems almost pure compared to everyone else. Sure, she’s killing people, but at least they’re bad people, right?
As the film nears its climax however, the fun of the film dies down. It’s not about Ruth’s quirkily named acts of vengeance, it’s about the loss of a woman’s husband and a grief so strong that she is having delusions about her unborn child urging her to murder.
Ruth’s final terror is just how alone she is, the realisation that it is not her baby at fault but herself for allowing grief to take her to this place, in a parody of postnatal depression that turns the previous romp of a feature into a serious contender for real horror.
The film as a whole is a fun, violent, daft run through a wild and seemingly unconnected series of events that pulls together simply and effectively in the end. Despite the humour it is not a film to be taken lightly. Lowe’s performance as both the villain of the piece and the victim is enthralling. Being as it’s written and directed by, and starring her, it ought to be as she has a lot to creative influence here and her character is well thought out and played just as she ought to be. Prevenge is a film that you can’t help but have fun with, and it’s got more than enough substance to make it worthwhile.