“I’m not grieving, I’m gestating.”
Pregnancy is more a curse than a miracle in Alice Lowe’s pitch-black, blood-soaked comedy Prevenge. Lowe plays Ruth, a very pregnant woman raking up a rather surprising body count. But there’s a method to Ruth’s apparent madness: she’s being directed to kill by her yet-to-be-born daughter. Ruth hear’s her child’s voice from within her womb, and it’s rather unpleasant.
Ruth’s crimes seem random at first, but as Prevenge unfolds it becomes clear that the victims all share a connection, but with each other and with Ruth. As the picture becomes clearer, so does Ruth’s fractured mindset. Lowe, who was very near to giving birth herself while filming Prevenge, handles her manic character perfectly. At first, Ruth is hesitant and squeamish about her acts. But as she starts to get the hang of it all a perverse sense of accomplishment creeps in. Running through it all, though, is a sadness. Ruth is grieving — the father of her child having died not long before the film starts — and the prevailing sense of helplessness that hangs over Ruth is palpable. She’s lost control — of her life and of her own body.
Lowe directs the hell out of this movie, with invasive camera angles and a keen eye for all the violence, which keeps Prevenge trucking along despite a general repetitiveness that settles is: Ruth pretends to be someone to get close to a victim, kills victim, rinse, repeat. When you step back from it all you realize the plotting is a bit thin, but Lowe’s cracking, hilarious, and even profound insights into the darker sides of humanity do enough heavy lifting that you’ll be willing to forgive the scarce plotting.
There’s a nastiness to Prevenge, but the film is surprisingly accessible. At least, it’s as accessible as a film about a pregnant women given orders to kill by her unborn baby can be. As misanthropic as this movie can be, there’s always the sense that it would like things to be different. There’s hope, somewhere beneath all that bloodshed. It’s a tough balancing act, yet Lowe manages it. We need a filmmaker like her, and we need her to keep making films like this.
Prevenge premiers exclusively on Shudder today.