First up, Prevenge is not a film for the faint-hearted. This movie about a pregnant killer – which screened to a packed and eager audience at the Goods Shed on the evening of April 29th - was no fluffy baby-shower affair. Oh no. Think more a murder-fest with knives, blood and guts. And not in a cesarean way (although, heads up: watch out for that, too…)
Directed by the very talented Alice Lowe (who many might recognise from Garth Marenghi's Dark Place, the Mighty Boosh, Little Britain, Hot Fuzz and Sightseers), Prevenge is a dark thriller with subtle wit and lashings of deep, multi-layered black humour. Lowe plays expectant mother, Ruth, who, after her partner dies in a climbing accident, decides to go on a killing spree of those involved. But there’s a twist: the killings are led by the baby she’s expecting. The baby who’s voice she can hear.
There’s no doubt about it, Prevenge is a thought-provoking, visually intriguing film and showing the feature at the Goods Shed, with its tall, wrought ceiling, leather sofas and red heating lights, meant the whole evening had an eerie feel, a suspenseful atmosphere of what was inevitably to come. And when it did come, boy, it was with a shock. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that, during the opening scene, the whole audience made an audible, collective gasp. You have been warned.
The reason for such a definable audience reaction – something which many films only aspire to create – is that Prevenge, in truth, is a daring film. It tackles cosy pregnancy and turns it on its head – and it does this very well. In many ways, this is down to the quick, often improv-inspired acting of actor/director Alice Lowe and her stellar cast. Lowe, while shooting the film, was actually six months pregnant with her first child. Indeed, in the Q&A held straight after the showing (conducted by Stroud based award winning illustrator and film make Joe Magee), Lowe revealed that she wrote the screenplay in two weeks, and due to her pregnancy, shot the entire movie in just eleven days (normally, shooting can take up to at least six weeks.) The good news is that, in so many ways, this shorter filming time was actually a beneficial thing in terms of creative screen results.
What Lowe has created in this, her directorial debut, is a fast-moving, edgy, dark and, dare I say it, distinctly British film that takes itself up and doesn’t shy away from having a probe at how we really are and what, perhaps, we are really thinking. And, most importantly, it tackles the often undiscussed issue of how expectant mothers are treated, both in society and by medical professionals, and with this Lowe and her cast do a frankly superb job at getting the subtle nuances of this often frustrating issue for women absolutely bang on.
There’s no doubt that what Lowe’s challenged, often uncertain character Ruth does is shocking. I mean, she’s a killer. But, as with other films of the same genre, such as Tarantino’s bride-killer movie series, Kill Bill, Prevenge showcases its protagonist in often subtle yet thought provoking ways. However, at the end of the film, I did come away thinking we could have done with knowing just a little more about the main character to give it a full three dimensional result. Interestingly, in the Q&A, Lowe said that she deliberately held back on telling too much about the characters’ past, for fear that it would come across as contrived or, indeed, create a different film altogether than the one she wanted. As a writer myself, I can understand this, yet, just a tad more on the character psyche or background, for me, would have really been the icing on the viewing cake.
But that’s picky, and, to be honest, Prevenge is a hit with so many amazing national and international reviews – including The New York Times - that it’s a real pleasure to see the reception such a ground-breaking film has achieved.
If I had to change one thing in the film, it would be the baby voice. For me, it didn’t work, but like I said – picky. Prevenge, bottom line, is dark and witty and at times deliciously funny. Often like pregnancy, in truth, but with Prevenge? Its pregnancy, but with an unexpected twist...