London Film Festival 2016 review: Prevenge

Director: Alice Lowe

1h 28min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | 13 October 2016 (UK)

Playing London Film Festival 2016

RATING: ★★★★☆

In her debut film Prevenge, writer-director Alice Lowe takes a blowtorch to the picture postcard image of pregnancy. In this deliciously twisted serial killer black comedy, she plays the 30-something and very pregnant, Ruth, who, if things weren't hard enough with trying to deal with her grief at the recent death of her husband in a climbing accident, has to battle the strange voices emanating from…her womb. Yup, Ruth’s baby seems to be talking to her, and the squeaky, bitter voice is impelling her on to murder everyone involved in her husband’s death. Equipped with a clunky kitchen knife and a dour sense of humour, Ruth waddles off to carry out the bloody deeds, though as the bodies pile up, she starts to fear she is being consumed by this being inside her. In a neat coincidence, Lowe was pregnant herself when she starred in this.

Lowe has been well-prepared for crafting this kind of tonally-ambiguous and surreal dark comedy, having starred in and co-written Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, amongst many other projects. She is clearly enjoying shredding a few pregnancy taboos here, as well as having fun playing on the physical comedy potential of having a weighed-down woman try to murder her way through her hit list of villains (hint, don’t try to escape out of cat flap when pregnant). The film balances juicy murders and laugh-out loud comedy beats very well. As cathartic and deliriously fun as you can feel it must have been to use serial killer/slasher genre tropes to poke at society’s views of pregnancy and womanhood, there are poignant and pertinent undertones here too. Ruth’s increasing submission to the voice touches on fears that a child can become all-encompassing, even taking over your biology. At one point Ruth takes revenge on a prospective employer who clearly saw her pregnancy as a reason to exclude her CV from the pile. Some of her victims are piggish men, who see her pregnancy and increased body size as a sleazy turn-on. Yet Lowe never lets you get too comfortable with Ruth either, flipping the record every so often so you never know how far she will go and whether she should be seen as a victim, as insane, or both.

Yes, the film betrays its low budget at times, but Lowe and DP Ryan Eddleston get a great deal of mileage out of some surreal Cardiff locations (including a wacky, ice cream sundae-coloured indoor climbing club) and some of the murders are shot with real flair. An edgy electronic score from(Pablo Clements, James Griffith and Toydrum completes the mood. Genre fans will also have fun spotting the tributes to classics of yesteryear, including Possession, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Halloween.

 

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Owen Van Spall

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