Prevenge Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by Western Edge Pictures
Written and directed by Alice Lowe
2016, 88 minutes, Not yet rated
UK Premiere on 16th October 2016 at BFI Film Festival
Kate Dickie as Ella
Gemma Whelan as Len
Alice Lowe as Ruth
Jo Hartley as Midwife
Kayvan Novak as Tom
What do you do if you’re offered your first directorial stint when you’re heavily pregnant? Well, if you’re Alice Lowe (the co-creator and co-star of caravanning comedy Sightseers), you write a story about a murdering pregnant woman, play the lead and cast your bump as the devil.
Prevenge (the best portmanteau word since ‘cockapoo’, no?), which sees single parent-to-be Ruth (Lowe) urged by the voice of her hostile unborn child to take revenge upon residents of Cardiff, treads the dark comedy path as confidently as Sightseers. With some capricious hormones of its own, the narrative’s familiarly depraved undertone is kept consistently jocular by gag after gag, which mostly play on the inappropriate candour and levelled demeanour of Lowe’s character and the amusingly shocking conversations with her midwife, TV legend Jo Hartley, and hark starkly back to Lowe’s previous projects, successfully inducing a movie-watching experience where grinning is only briefly broken by giggles.
While the synopsis, and indeed the opening pet shop scene where Ruth meets her first victim in the pervy shop-owner, lends itself to silly don’t-try-this-at-home shenanigans (of which there are plenty), there’s more pathos and depth seething beneath than first meets the eye. For one, the anti-maternal angle is brave, and the focus on the empowerment rather than vulnerability of pregnancy, and its deliverance through a female perspective, is refreshing to say the least.
Ruth’s extreme behaviour and the way your feelings of antipathy towards her gradually turn to empathy as we learn that the motive behind what initially seems like random killings and victims isn’t simply acute hormones(!), is a metaphorical exaggeration of the emotional baggage and volatility that pregnancy brings.
Lowe is not one to one to shy away from violence, the murders are predictably grizzly and gruesome – Kate Dickie (Filth, The Witch) has her head smashed against a glass table and throat slit, while the genitalia of a sleazy, misogynistic ‘70’s-loving DJ get the chop on the carpet floor – so parents-to-be looking for an on-topic alternative to childbirth videos won’t find much respite from blood and bodily fluid here. And the extremity of the act contrasted with the drab everyday settings – pet shops, offices, living rooms – they occur in make them all the more amusingly appalling.
Written in less than couple months and shot in just eleven days, Prevenge feels very much the modest homegrown movie its roots suggest, while still managing to exhume the air of an impressively confident, consistently comical and smart, well-told revenge story. Lowe may have played her directorial debut safe by keeping the tone very much within her comfort zone, but in doing so she’s knocked up a cult gem.