Prevenge is a British horror-comedy about the pregnant Ruth (written, directed and starring Alice Lowe), who is goaded into a homicidal rampage by her unborn child. The idea was conceived during Lowe’s struggles finding work while pregnant, and the film acts as an outlet for her frustrations — while also showing her directorial skill in darkly comic, distinctly British fashion.
Brilliant execution and thematic layers breathe life into the ‘demonic spawn’ horror trope. Sharing similarities with Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Lowe explores maternal stress, alienation and grief through a series of encounters with grotesque caricatures. A double-entendre spitting pet store owner (“That’s my fat snake. Do you want to touch it?”), a boorish DJ who lives with his mother, a cold human resources head who denies her employment, a fitness fanatic blonde. These oft-hilarious vignettes are laden with sexism and gender discrimination, and somewhat excuse Ruth’s murderous (p)revenge on these characters who may be culpable in her husband’s death.
A subtle performance by Lowe ensures that Prevenge doesn’t become a tasteless serial killer slasher film. Her wit is as sharp as her blade, her face a clean window to her emotions. In a split second, she turns from middle-class mum to marauding murderer. Cinematographer Ryan Addlestone emphasises Ruth’s loneliness; she watches a father push his child on a swing, suffers cramps as she walks alone at night, studies a photograph of her husband to the rhythmic bangs of the fornicating couple next door. But she’s not completely alone. The sadistic voice of her fetus is ever present and her maternity nurse reminds her “she’s got no control over her mind or body anymore”, so why not listen? With only the occasional falter, Lowe carries this through to full term.