Prevenge (2016)


UK. 2016.


Director/Screenplay – Alice Lowe, Producers – Jennifer Handorf, Will Kane & Vaughan Sivell, Photography – Ryan Eddleston, Music – Toydrum, Visual Effects – Gingerbread Monkey (Supervisor – Colin J. Smith), Makeup Design – Jessica Cheetham, Production Design – Blair Barnette. Production Company – Western Edge Pictures


Alice Lowe (Ruth), Jo Hartley (Midwife), Tom Davis (DJ Dan), Kate Dickie (Ella Harding), Kavyan Novak (Tom Hamdan), Mike Wozniak (Josh), Dan Renton Skinner (Mr Zabek), Gemma Whelan (Len), Leila Hoffman (Dan’s Mum), Tom Meeten (Zack)


Ruth is a pregnant woman whose partner Matt was killed in a rock-climbing accident. She now takes revenge, driven by the voice of the baby in her womb. Using a kitchen knife, she kills everybody from sleazy and self-centred men to the woman who declines her for a job because she is pregnant to people who dismiss her while collecting door-to-door for charity.

Alice Lowe is a face that has been appearing principally in British comedy shows and a few straight dramatic roles over the last decade. She was a regular on Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004) and appeared in Hot Fuzz (2007) but her most well-known role was at the psychopathic lead alongside Steve Oram in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (2012), a film that she and Oram also wrote. Lowe previously directed/wrote/starred in the short horror film Solitudo (2014).

Sightseers felt like a film in which Lowe and Oram took an inordinately black glee in depicting a certain kind of small-minded banality among the English middle-class and then slaughtering such peoples. You get the impression that a similar sense of glee fuelled Alice Lowe in the making of Prevenge. The victims range from a man in a pet shop who seems to turn everything he says about the animals into a crude innuendo; a self-absorbed DJ she meets at a 70s disco night who takes her back to his place – denoted by the loathsomely ick moment where he drunkenly throws up in the cab home and then turns and kisses Lowe full on the mouth; a businesswoman who rejects Lowe from a job application because she is pregnant whose fate is determined just as much on the grounds as she has no life outside of work; a fitness fanatic who brushes Lowe off while she is collecting for charity door-to-door.

Alice Lowe has a biting sense of black humour. Be it she slitting Kate Dickie’s throat while commenting “It’s a cutthroat business,” to some of the black deflations of the various characters we meet. Much of the film reads as a pregnant mother bleeding her petty day-to-day frustrations with the world around her onto the screenplay page in a kind of diabolical wish fulfilment fantasy. (Lowe was 7½ months pregnant when she made the film, writing the script around her pregnancy and shooting everything in eleven days). Lowe writes herself some very darkly funny lines deflating the rosily banal sentiments and earnest niceness of Jo Hartley’s midwife and some even more unnerving voiceovers from the baby. As much as it is a film that is fuelled by a sense of black humour, it is also one that holds an almost comic everyday banality – after despatching Tom Davis, his aging mother (Leila Hoffman) wanders out and comments that it will need bleach to get the blood out of the carpet, where Alice Lowe’s natural reaction is to tuck the old lady into bed, ask if she wants a hot chocolate and put the washing on before she leaves.

The connecting plot is fairly loose – it is never clear why Ruth targets some of her victims, for instance. There is a minor backstory where she targets rock climbing instructor Kavyan Novak for killing her boyfriend but backs off doing anything twice, leaving it an unfulfilled plot strand until right at the end. Mostly, the film is driven by these set-pieces as Lowe encounters each victim and then despatches them.

(Screening Courtesy of the Rio Grind Festival)

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