Alice Lowe (director)
Western Edge (studio)
10 February 2017 (released)
08 February 2017
Playing murderers must be in Alice Lowe's blood. Fresh from starring as one half of a killer couple in Ben Wheatley's excellent Sightseers, she has now taken on the role of serial killer and not just any old serial killer; she just happens to be a pregnant one. If that is not stomach churning enough, the mastermind behind her gory spree is her unborn foetus. Whilst 'pregnant slasher movie' is an unusual proposal for even the blackest of comedies, it is played to perfection by Lowe, who also wrote and directed the feature while she was actually seven months pregnant. With huge kudos given for such an achievement it would be difficult to criticize this movie if it faltered but thankfully it stays on course to be an enjoyable but very individual movie experience.
Opening in a pet shop full of snakes and creepy crawlies, Ruth (Lowe) amiably chats to the owner played by Dan Renton Skinner until she coldly dispatches him as he lays prostrate, attempting to catch a tarantula. The bloodletting is quick and heavy and signifies that this black comedy will be redder than most. The film then switches between Ruth's hit-list and the regular check-ups with her midwife performed perfectly by This Is England’s Jo Hartley. This interplay between quiet hospital scenes and blood-splattered set pieces is as unsettling as it is effective and as the murders stack up we see many of TV's familiar comedic faces being brutalized by our anti-heroine including Fonejacker's Kayvan Novak, Man Down's Mike Wozniak and Murder In Successville's Tom Davis as the disgustingly gross DJ Dan.
The reason for Ruth's killing spree shall remain a secret here but suffice to say the title is accurate even though it is not completely clear what befell all involved. The fact that our pregnant protagonist is being directed from beyond the womb by her misanthropic unborn child could be too much for some but it is handled with dark humour and just about works, except for the voice, which sounds like an evil cartoon baby on helium. Far funnier would have been either a purely comedic adult voice or a very familiar one but this is a small criticism. The score is fantastic, especially in the synth heavy opening credits which bring to mind classic John Carpenter. The performances are strong all round and manage to navigate the fine line between laugh out loud lines and subtle character nuances but it is Lowe who is the star.
Having been a fan since she appeared in cult comedy Garth Marengi's Dark Place it is encouraging to see a female comedian taking control of her career during such an important time in her life but as she says herself; “faced with the unlikely opportunity to make a feature film, while pregnant, I wondered if it was just a matter of perspective. Perhaps pregnancy could be portrayed as a superpower?” Prevenge certainly shows someone using their natural gift to wreak havoc on her victims but it also shows how an extremely gifted writer, performer and director can get laughs from a queasy subject such as childbirth so let's hope it spawns a sequel.