Prevenge Written & Directed by Alice Lowe
Cast: Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley
Runtime: 88 min
Release date: March 24, 2017
A woman walks into a pet store and engages in a conversation with the owner rife with sexual innuendo. As he shows off his exotic animal collection the woman grabs a knife off a table and slices his throat. A thumping electronic score pipes in as the film title drops in one letter at a time. Prevenge is a horror movie because the main character is a serial killer. But rather than an escaped psychopath or a masked maniac, the killer here is a very pregnant woman.
Pregnant Ruth, played by writer/director Alice Lowe (who was actually 7 months pregnant during filming), commits murders at the behest of her unborn daughter who fuels her rage from the womb with sinister voiceover. Under different circumstances, with a different person at the helm, this could’ve become schlock horror 101. But thanks to Lowe’s dedication and abilities as both a filmmaker and leading lady, Prevenge becomes a violent and disturbing film that mixes laughs with real emotions. Prevenge leaps in and around genre conventions and ends up wholly original, disturbing, and above all entertaining film.
Alice Lowe is a true tour de force here. She can control the screen with her facial expressions and she has a subtlety and nuance to her mannerisms and performance. In this, her first feature film as a solo writer and director, she crafts a character with a motive to her madness, but leaves ambiguity. All we know is she is meeting people seemingly at random and killing them for no reason other than “baby will tell you what to do.” I won’t spoil the “why” of Ruth of actions, the film takes it’s time getting you there and it’s a worthwhile journey. Ruth is also an interesting character because by convention, we the audience are accustomed to empathize with the “pregnant woman” as a someone in need, and perhaps even a victim. Lowe definitely has the advantages of being both a woman AND pregnant to use these conventions and spin them in a new direction. There’s a hilariously awkward seduction scene featuring middle-age schlub DJ Dan (Tom Davis). Then there are tender moments where she meets Josh (Mike Wozniak) and is so happy to meet someone genuinely “nice.”
Ruth’s pregnancy takes central focus in the film. She puts her murderous rampage on pause for visits to her friendly midwife (Jo Hartley). She uses her condition to gain the upper hand on potential victims like Len (Gemma Whelan, who plays Yara Greyjoy on Game of Thrones). And it’s here where I feel Prevenge truly becomes a unique film. Ruth is woman carrying a child; the father is gone and she’s obviously grieving. For some, intense grief turns to crippling depression; for Ruth, it becomes a psychosis, with her baby talking her through the violence like a cheerleader. There were moments in Prevenge where I jumped, and moments where I felt genuinely bad for the murderer. It takes a special film to give the audience such a conflict.
In the end, Prevenge stands as an interesting experiment in modern horror. It’s a film that uses a phenomenal score by Toydrum, to set a tone that felt reminiscent of the uncomfortable works of Gaspar Noe. Alice Lowe craftily manipulates viewers into feeling sorry for a vicious killer because of her condition and mental status. I am extremely impressed by Lowe and look forward to her future work. During a month in which we celebrate women, Prevenge is a horror film showcasing a female killer, in a singularly female condition, written and directed by a woman. Hey, I have a daughter and she needs role models. Strangely enough, Ruth from Prevenge may just be one.
Prevenge just ran at the SXSW film festival and is being released on AMC’s horror streaming service Shudder next Friday, March 24th as well as getting a limited theatrical run in NY and NJ. Shudder is available online at Shudder.com and on Roku. It has an incredible selection and is beginning to gain exclusivity in the horror market, including with films like Prevenge. You can get access to Shudder’s selection for only $4.99 a month.
Widow Ruth is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way.