I’ve always had a soft spot for horror-comedy crossovers and was excited to settle into watching Alice Lowe’s directorial debut Prevenge. A genre dominated by male directors, Lowe brings a refreshing and fun angle to the table.
In Prevenge, as Ruth (Alice Lowe) nears her due date she goes on a murderous rampage at the presumable behest of her unborn child. We are gradually let in on the secret that the people she is ceremoniously crossing off her ‘Baby’s First Steps’ book-turned-hitlist were the amateur climbers on a trip along with her baby daddy when he tragically died in an accident.
The first murder Ruth commits is a shock, a great appetizer to the movie. Although, unfortunately, as she works her way down her list the murders start to become boring. Before long, we’re simply wondering how long it’s going to take before she slips her knife through a new weekend-warrior climber’s throat. Yet the murders are nicely choreographed- gruesome and visceral enough to feel it (DJ Dan… eesh) and to placate horror fans, but not enough to be off-putting.
The most important part of enjoying this film lies squarely on the back of Lowe. She dials in an exceptional and authentic performance. That fact that she was actually very pregnant during the filming of Prevenge really shows through and works to her advantage. She looks and walks like a pregnant woman, her emotion seeping into her scenes. The low-budget feel does not drag the film down at all, but rather makes the film a little more ‘real’ and gritty. One particularly brilliant scene – Ruth on her way to a Halloween party with people in costume groaning and ogling her costume and belly- was simply shot on the streets of Cardiff on Halloween evening. There are tons of small moments like this that work extraordinarily well.
Prevenge is brilliantly scored. It harkens back to its John Carpenterian roots while also calling to mind more recent bass-bumping,neon light, techno-driven hits like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows. While visually the film feels familiar, the music gives it the perfect amount of surrealism and dreaminess to help the viewer get swept up in the terror.
Lowe’s pacing shines bright in conjunction with the music. No moment lingers too long. We’re left guessing just the right amount. Whenever a scene feels as if it might drag on we are swiftly and masterfully moved along. The murders are peppered in between sessions with a midwife, conversations with the devil-baby, and listening to her obnoxious neighbors create their own little bloodthirsty-miracle.
But, the writing is a mixed bag. Some moments really deliver well, especially when Ruth acts sadistically cruel. Lines like “Who pays someone to throw them out of an airplane? It’s not a substitute for a personality is it?” and “It’s just like following an instructor like a bunch of sheep. It’s kind of weak-minded,” show the anti-social side of Ruth’s psychosis. The writing and story, however, fell apart at the end. The exceedingly clumsy harkening back to the climbing accident with the C-section, “Look I know the Cesarean wasn’t meant to happen, but when it’s life or death we have to make that cut,”, was not only groan-inducing but cheapened a lot of the rest of the movie.
However my biggest gripe with Prevenge lies in the heavy-handed lathering on of Ruth’s moral dilemma. When she is contemplating pregnancy, her unborn child, motherhood and the creepy voice from her stomach, the movie shines in its introspection and honesty. Yet when she tries to justify her actions with the back story it gets muddled, clichéd, and tiresome.
Nevertheless, Prevenge is a fun film with a lot to love. It is stylistically gorgeous throughout with brilliant moments in the script. It’s not a must watch by any means but if you like the genre and have the chance to catch it, it will not disappoint.