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It might be hard to describe what is both repellent and outrageous, this movie called Prevenge, which skims along on a wickedly thin line between dark comedy and troublesome social antagonism. Where does one stand on a film that features a disturbed woman possessed by the voice of her eight-month fetus, literally talking to her in her head? At times, it’s an exceptionally-well written and acted film with an off-kilter, sometimes jarringly gory journey of pregnancy that is rife with metaphor and yet stinging in satire. Unique, it surly is.
We meet Ruth (Alice Lowe), a woman close to giving birth. She is alone in the endeavor, the father lost in an accident that remains a mystery for most of the story, leaving Ruth wondering about in a strange plane of abnormality, ruthlessly bitter about her lot in life now, savagely antagonistic with most of the world around her, and as we learn, for especially a few select people. Thus, she seeks revenge on these souls, lulling them into a false sense of security and closeness before brutally, viciously, ending them, all under the guiding voice of her unborn child whose chatter pushes her to the extremes.
Written and directed by Lowe, in her feature film debut, Prevenge plays out like a surreal fantasy and in many ways makes for a visually chaotic dream-like experience that follows a tragic woman slowly going mad. Mixing authentic moments where Ruth maintains her regular appointments with her doctor, who is aware of the dark overtones in Ruth’s sour disposition, being a voice of reason as her patient struggles to keep balance. Everywhere else though, Ruth is in a crushing state internalized fury, a hunter seeking victims to dispose after she makes a connection.
That begins in the opening salvo where Ruth enters an exotic pet shop and after the smarmy owner dips in double entendre, gets his throat slit open to bleed out on the floor. She then gives him a kiss and moves onto a DJ at a 70s pub, another crusty fellow who mistakes her pregnancy for weight and well, gets his manhood lopped off before bleeding out himself. And so the rampage goes as she stalks and murders more, the list of names slowly getting a cohesiveness about them as she whittles away her hit list. And there are many.
The violence is graphic and served up with genuine style, done with some clever cinematic flare and lots of uneasy tension and black comedy that give Lowe’s film a uniquely uncommon feel. Brazen might be the word. Lowe (who was pregnant during the production) challenges us to think about our sympathies because sure, we understand Ruth’s anger, especially as the reasons behind her suffering unfurl, but we certainly can’t condone her actions, even if the ‘victims’ she offs are less than proper pillars of society. Perhaps that’s the point though, that suffering is internal and with the hazy qualities of Ruth’s seemingly semi-lucid waking life, it’s all but a metaphor about a woman left alone in a time when partnership is most needed. The symbolism is there, the constant return to a cut chord dangling from the rocks one that hints at the most obvious.
Prevenge, led by its brilliant electronic synth score, is a paralyzing experience for much of its runtime, one that despite a few tonal issues and some flat moments, is if anything, a polarizing film that proves Lowe is a serious new force in the genre, and one sure to have even larger impact as her career takes off.
Movie description: Prevenge is a 2017 comedy horror about a pregnant woman who goes on a murderous rampage, believing her unborn child is guiding her actions.
Director(s): Alice Lowe
Actor(s): Jo Hartley, Gemma Whelan, Alice Lowe
Genre: Horror, Comedy