Prevenge Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Kaleidoscope
Written and Directed by Alice Lowe
2016, 88 minutes, Rated 15
UK Cinema Release on February 10th, 2017
Alice Lowe as Ruth
Tom Davis as DJ Dan
Gemma Whelan as Len
Jo Hartley as Midwife
Already a lady of strong genre vintage with her roles in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and Sightseers (which she also co-wrote), Brit talent Alice Lowe gets a feature film of her very own in Prevenge. Juggling directing, writing and lead actress duties, Lowe spins a tale of gruesome violence and revenge, as troubled, grieving Ruth hunts down those responsible for the death of her spouse. Not bad for a heavily pregnant woman – both the character and Lowe herself.
If Lowe has a lot on her plate, that might explain the sparsity of the story. A very British love letter to Lady Vengeance and Chan-wook Park's thematic trilogy (not wanky reviewer second-guessing: these films were mentioned by Lowe herself in the Q&A which followed the screening I attended), the film meanders from one victim to the next, as Ruth seeks her revenge.
Much of the fun is in meeting these victims, as presented on a conveyor belt of familiar British comedy personalities. Dan Renton Skinner, Mike Wozniak and Gemma Whelan are among the most memorable, while Kayvan Novak is surprisingly wasted and Tom Davis steals the whole show. Indeed, the film struggles to come back from Davis's utterly hilarious DJ Dan, who gives Prevenge its heartiest laughs and most shocking moments. Which is not to take credit from Lowe, who wrote the thing (and filmed it in a matter of weeks) but simply that Prevenge never reaches the same heights as it does during its DJ Dan sequences.
There are moments though. Time spent with Ruth and her Midwife (Jo Hartley, another familiar and welcome face) is both funny and poignant, delving into Ruth's past and feelings more than it ever does elsewhere, to welcome, humanising, effect.
The gestating mini-human in her womb gives Ruth's murder spree a not-particularly-subtle subtext that makes it all feel a little on the nose, but the heaps of pitch black comedy keep it from too much navel gazing. After all, Ruth's to-do (in) list is far too long to allow her too much time wallowing, and the baby looks ready to pop out at any moment.
Prevenge is the British genre movie at its most unusual. Its comedy is pitch black, the performances naturalistic and part-improvised. While the British comedy arthouse tone won't be to all tastes (and I do struggle with the often rambling feel of naturalistic acting styles) those who enjoyed Sightseers and much of the work of Ben Wheatley should have fun with this one too. But, again, this is Alice Lowe's show, and she handles it beautifully. Bizarre, haunting and deeply hilarious at times, it should find no shortage of fans in the horror and Indie community.
With Prevenge, Lowe has added another string to her already impressive bow, proving herself as talented a director as she is writer and actress. Its somewhat premature delivery has it weighing in a little on the smaller side, but this firstborn is something to be proud of. One looks forward to meeting the rest of the family.