This review was published in February 2017 in the Cuckoo Review here.
Trying to describe Prevenge in one sentence makes it sound entirely ludicrous: a darkly satirical, comic horror slasher film in which a pregnant woman is told by her unborn baby to kill people. On the surface, it occupies a pretty niche genre. Like in her previous film, Sightseers, however, Alice Lowe’s humour pulls the ludicrous into the comic with deft hands. Lowe wrote, directed, and stars as the main character in Prevenge, and it is this total immersion of her creativity in the film that holds it all together.
Lowe plays Ruth, a soon-to-be mother who seeks to avenge the accidental death of her husband on a rock-climbing expedition. Her unborn child, in a disturbingly squeaky high-pitched voice (think Moaning Myrtle) urges her to find those who were attached to the same rope, and slash their throats. In a series of darkly comic scenes, we follow Ruth as she hunts down her victims. The murders are interspersed with surprisingly poignant visits to her midwife for routine check-ups, where the film takes a more serious tone, reflecting on the emotional struggle of single motherhood and grief.
These moving moments mix well with the twisted humour; as Ruth lies in bed listening to the sound of the couple next door having sex, she holds a photo of her dead husband and a tear rolls down her face. As a viewer, you aren’t quite sure whether to laugh or cry with her. It’s this unsettling tension in the film that is its most impressive quality – we are constantly unsure as to whether Alice is psychopathic, or whether the film is.
A particularly amusing moment is one of the later murders: disguising herself as a charity collector Ruth forces entry into an athletic woman’s home – they end up sparring with boxing gloves, whilst the victim screams: ‘I told you I already give to loads of charities!’
It’s only towards the end that my attention starts to wander. As the number of murders increase, the second half of the film becomes a little one-dimensional; a sequence of comic murder scenes lacking a distinctive plot holding them together. We know what is up next. However, a great twist in the final seconds of the film is very intelligent, not allowing the audience the ending we expected.
In a live Q&A that Alice Lowe gives afterwards, she told us how the entire film was shot in 11 days, and that that pregnancy bump isn’t a prosthetic – Lowe started filming at seven and a half weeks pregnant. Lowe is just as funny in person as she is on the screen; she jokingly tells the audience she wants to make clear to her (now born) baby that the film isn’t about her, and that ‘she’s not a nasty murderer, she’s really nice’. She really knows her stuff on horror films, citing her main influences and inspirations behind the pops of colour and unifying themes in the film. This is what prevents the low-budget film from feeling so, and instead gives it a professional quality. Prevenge is a testament to her knowledge of the genre without which she would not have been able to pull off the macabre wit of the film.