Prevenge, the directorial debut of actress and writer Alice Lowe, is a horror-comedy about the brutal serial killings carried out by the film’s lead, Ruth, a pregnant woman who follows the malevolent desires of her unborn child.
Lowe is best known for her recurring role on the cult comedy series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace as well as co-writing the 2012 horror-comedy Sightseers, and this penchant for the dark hilarious is apparent in her new film.
Lowe, as the; star, director and writer of this low-budget independent feature wins on all three counts, producing a witty and yet thoroughly melancholic script which is complemented by a directorial style which uses unsteady and close shots to give the film a profoundly intimate feel. The scene which best exemplifies this comes as the main character, Ruth, walks to a Halloween party, filmed with a digital camera on the streets of Cardiff. The scene is filmed as a POV with the partygoers leering and stumbling about in their costumes whilst Ruth walks, as anonymous as always, but emblazoned in garish make-up which reflects her twisted mind. What makes this scene so notable is how it contrasts with the scene in the party; while Ruth is alone in her own mind the camera shots are lolling and serene, each shot is edited together to create a beautiful flow of images, whereas when surrounded by people the shots are sharper and more nervous which gives us a window into the character’s personality.
Lowe, who was eight months pregnant during production, also turns in a brilliantly tortured yet sinister performance as the protagonist opposite a number of stellar performances. Some of the best members of the supporting cast, such as Tom Davis and Dan Renton-Skinner, are character-comedians whom Lowe knew from her experience in British comedy and are unsurprisingly well-suited to their characters as Lowe claims they were written with the actor in mind. No doubt these shaky camera shots are a result of the relatively shoestring budget the film was shot on (I know the exact amount but at Lowe’s producer’s wishes will not disclose it) however the genres of horror and comedy are profoundly suited to a low-budget, since arguably both styles are at their most effective when they can connect to the audience.
Taking into account the amount of gore in the film, I cannot recommend this film to anyone remotely squeamish (although these people would probably have the most appropriate reaction to some of the images depicted). The gore is however used to great effect, and is artistically validated in the way it demonstrates the emotional intensity of the scene. After all, the bloodiest murders in the film are against those whom the audience and Ruth would most like to see dead, and in the cases of more sympathetic or likeable characters they are largely spared any shots of spilled blood.
However, the scene containing the greatest and longest scenes of blood is the birth of the child by caesarian, reflecting that the greatest and most charged emotions within the film comes from the relationship between a mother and her child. Similarly, the daughter is the most unpleasant and hostile character in the entire film, screaming obscenities and forcing her mother to commit unspeakable acts, sometimes against her will. Regardless, Ruth is a slave to her daughter since, as is remarked in the film, “parents love their kids, it’s not rocket science”, and the scenes of conversation between the two are the most provocative of the entire piece.
The plot of the film is largely constructed to service the steady stream of murders which means some of the characters remain unpolished and unknown to the audience, bar their connection to the climbing accident which killed the father of Ruth’s child. This risks turning the film into a generic slasher movie, concerned with it’s body count and not with characterisation beyond the main character(s), indeed the duration of the character’s rampage defies belief considering how haphazard some of the murders are. Furthermore, certain plot points such as the risk of the child being taken away by the council seem unfinished or abandoned by the end of the film, certainly the ending reeks of a scriptwriter not knowing how to tie everything up and so relying on a certain amount of ambiguity into which we can insert our own ending.
However, in spite of this, the point of the film which is to reflect the pains and dedication associated with pregnancy and impending motherhood with a darkly comic twist, and Lowe accomplishes this feat and more with a nauseating and yet beautiful film.
Director: Alice Lowe
Cast: Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley
Run Time: 88 minutes
Country: United Kingdom