Alice Lowe makes her feature film directorial debut, writing and starring in Prevenge, an offbeat thriller about a pregnant woman following the murderous instructions of her unborn baby.
Taking just 11 days to shoot, Alice Lowe’s directorial debut is a feat of efficiency and technique. Across a breezy ninety minutes, Lowe’s comically absurdist tendencies splatter a stylised stage influenced by the likes of Argento, Lynch and her good pal Ben Wheatley whose film Sightseers she co-wrote and starred in.
Prevenge is delightfully subversive, both in narrative construction and thematic sensibilities, reversing the classic revenge motif to appear as both revelation and twist, and turning a pregnant woman’s life-giving biology into a purveyor of death. Lowe, who also wrote the film, stars as its sadistic protagonist. She evokes a sense of otherworldly aloofness through the ever-present vacant, ghost-like expressionlessness of the pregnant mother-to-be Ruth.
What’s wonderful is how she’ll throw in a momentary lapse in her character’s enigmatic reservation that genuinely unnerves. It’s evident when Ruth has gone into “kill” mode and works especially well during a sequence in which she’s in costume for Halloween, particularly a delicious jump cut that reminded me of Friedkin’s dream sequences in The Exorcist.
Structured with an offbeat indifference in line with its tone, Prevenge isn’t a prototypical revenge thriller and may, by dismissing convention, leave some audiences cold. Indeed, it makes a point of hiding context as a way of underlining this pregnant woman’s possible psychosis, the disembodied voice of her unborn foetus guiding her knife possibly being the conclusive evidence. But interestingly it is its murderous guidance that indicates why she might have chosen her targets.
Filmed during Lowe’s real life pregnancy, Prevenge gives new meaning to the term prepartum anxiety. It’s a quirky celebration of mother-child bonds steeped in pitch black comic irony. Lowe’s humour is the standout factor, her delivery suited to a script brimming with sarcasm and wit, but as a director she also concocts moments of genuinely chilling suspense.
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