Alice Lowe writes, directs and stars in Prevenge, a unique British revenge thriller that dartingly wrong-foots the viewer at every twist and blood-soaked turn.
Considering the massive number of women who are currently, or have ever been, ‘with child’, it is fair to say that pregnant women is a disproportionately underrepresented group in film. Outside of Fargo’s inimitable Marge Gunderson, or Ellen Page’s Juno, it is hard to think of many iconic characters who fit that particular bill. Prevenge, filmed when Lowe was many months pregnant, is an unsettling, blackly funny ode to carnivorous prenatal angst.
Her character, Ruth, embarks on a pretty brutal killing spree, seemingly to enact some kind of vengeance for her late husband’s as yet mysterious death. Propelling her on is the goading, squeaky voice of her unborn baby, and it quickly becomes clear that she is engaged in a somewhat psychotic imagined dialogue with her foetus. The characters she encounters are all wonderfully drawn; painfully creepy, pathetic men, humourless and unwelcoming women, and the very funny stand-up Mike Wozniak playing Josh, the sweetest man conceivable, who makes her question her killer resolve. Intercut with these assassination scenes we get a glimpse at the more typical side of pregnancy, namely check-ups with the doctor (played by Jo Hartley, most known for playing Shaun’s mum in This is England).
“dartingly wrong-foots the viewer at every twist and blood-soaked turn”
In much the same way as Sightseers, which Lowe also starred in and co-scripted, there is a genuine unpredictability to the film. The murders themselves can catch you off-guard, and there were a good several moments during the screening I attended where the audience collectively, audibly gasped. Or groaned. One of the main criticisms would be that perhaps there are too many similarities to Sightseers, not just in tone but in plot. By weaving the theme of impending motherhood into every scene and interaction, Prevenge does, however, manage to establish itself as unique entity; not just different from Sightseers, but from most other films. The tone is so varied and liable to shift, the overall effect is one of complete unease – both comic and horrific.
Put simply, Prevenge is exactly the kind of film that Britain should be making: confrontational, purposeful and fun. That it was shot in 11 (non-consecutive) days is little short of a marvel, but even if it weren’t, Lowe’s directorial debut would still distinguish itself as a stylish, shocking delight.
Image: Alice Lowe