PREVENGE (UK/16/88mins)
Directed by Alice Lowe. Starring Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley, Tom Davis
THE PLOT: Believing that she is receiving messages from her unborn daughter, Ruth (Alice Lowe) sets out on a bloody rampage of revenge against those she believes to have wronged her, and her family.
THE VERDICT: ‘Prevenge’ is the first feature length film directed by Alice Lowe and is as dark, twisted, and subversively hilarious as you would expect it to be, being that this film comes from the actress previously seen in Ben Wheatley’s ‘Sightseers’, ‘Black Mountain Poets’ and TV’s ‘Inside No. 9’.
Alice Lowe leads the cast as Ruth, making her a woman who can fall into the role of almost anyone she wants to be – mother pet shopping for her son, night clubber, interviewee – and it is this, combined with her absolute lack of qualms or remorse over her killings spree that makes her fearsome. Of course, since the character is heavily pregnant, an element of vulnerability is immediately attached to the character, and this, combined with Ruth’s late stage doubts about what she believes her unborn child is bidding her do, makes for a surprisingly rounded, if damaged, character; the kind that Lowe plays best. The rest of the cast features Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley and Tom Davis.
Alice Lowe’s screenplay for ‘Prevenge’ is filled with gruesome moments and darkly hilarious situations, but it is in creating a vulnerable, terrifying character that the film excels. Pregnancy is normally portrayed as something life affirming, that creates a sense of nurturing in a person, and by making Ruth a pregnant killer, ‘Prevenge’ not only turns expectations on their heads, but makes the film dark and subversive.
As director Alice Lowe manages to create some incredibly, and deliberately, annoying characters on screen, all while giving Ruth a sense of being an avenging angel. It is difficult not to root for Ruth – even as we are unsure what has prompted her killing spree – as Lowe makes her identifiable, funny and with a twisted but real sense of justice. The killing scenes are as violent and bloody as you would hope, and those who are faint of heart or not fans of black comedy may struggle, but there is a sense of joy around ‘Prevenge’ that is hard to create, yet utterly irresistible. A stronger narrative and back story may have helped the film, but with the fearless Alice Lowe at the helm, ‘Prevenge’ is a dark, ugly and brilliant treat.
In all, ‘Prevenge’ is a dark, bloody and often hilarious film about a pregnant woman seeking justice, prompted by the demands of her unborn baby. Most of the characters in the film are utterly unlikeable, but it is difficult not to root for Ruth as she searches for revenge and the truth. A fantastic debut from Lowe as a director.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Prevenge, the directorial debut of Alice Lowe, is an altogether better female-driven story than a certain kinky sequel out this weekend. It’s the kind of wacky but original story that there should be more of.

    Ruth (Alice Lowe) discovers that an alien has invaded her body. Not the kind with gray skin and deep black eyes, but a human one that is growing inside her. Yes, she’s seven months pregnant and feels very strange about the whole thing. She listens to her baby’s thoughts, which drive her towards murdering anyone who gets in her way or displeases her, including Ella (Kate Dickie), Len (Gemma Whelan) and lecherous DJ Dan (Tom Davis). Her midwife (Jo Hartley) doesn’t know about all this, but is bemused by Ruth’s ambivalent feelings about her pregnancy. Will Ruth’s killing spree stop with the birth of her (alien) baby?

    Writer/director Lowe has worked with Ben Wheatley on several films including co-writing the script for and starring in Sightseers. You can see the similarities and influences of that film here in Prevenge – it has that same dark sense of humour, matter-of-fact approach to murder and people dying. It also has a script that is wry and sharply observed. If you enjoyed Sightseers, then you’ll certainly enjoy this twisted tale of female hormones. At one point, the midwife says that Ruth has no control over her body anymore – the baby is in the driving seat. Lowe takes that literally, driving a story about female revenge against some unlikeable men and sad, insulting women who disrespect Ruth. It takes a certain sort of guts to have an adult doing a baby voice driving Ruth’s roaring rampage of revenge. Fortunately, Lowe gets the tone just right, making it laugh-out loud funny but also making you feel slightly guilty too.

    The film was shot while Lowe herself was pregnant, blurring the boundaries between art and reality here. Not that Lowe has gone out to kill anyone or anything, but her twisted sense of humour has clearly dwelled on the idea of an alien taking over her body, emotions and behaviour. It’s an ingenious idea to peg a film about pregnancy on, shot through with a jet black streak of humour that people tuned into her frequency will get. A fight sequence involving Ruth and Len is a highlight, but the film has so much going for it anyway. Prevenge is smart, acidic and the kind of strong, female-driven film that we need more of now, given women’s under-representation in the film industry. ****