Prevenge gets by on the creepy charms of director/writer/star Alice Lowe
Having made a name for herself starring in low-budget black comedies like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and Sightseers, it’s only fitting that Alice Lowe’s directorial debut Prevenge follows a similar strand of broad humour and bloody mayhem. Written by and starring Lowe as Ruth, a heavily-pregnant woman whose unborn baby convinces her to go on a killing spree, Prevenge isn’t as consistent as her previous work, but a few memorable setpieces and Lowe’s wonderfully deadpan performance keep it entertaining.
After an awkward opening scene which aims for mysterious but feels incoherent, Prevenge settles into a demented groove; Ruth receives disturbing messages from the whispery voice of the baby growing inside of her, and sets out to kill a seemingly-random list of people. The oddballs who make up her kill list (written in a baby book) include sleazy loser DJ Dan (Tom Davis), cutthroat businesswoman Ella (Kate Dickie), and climbing instructor Tom (Kayvan Novak). Through increasingly bloody flashbacks, it becomes clear that Ruth’s victims aren’t random- they’re all linked in some way to her deceased husband.
Working with a miniscule budget, Lowe creates an effectively atmospheric portrayal of a woman on the edge, the tight close up cinematography and beautifully eerie synth score by Toydrum allowing us to remain in her headspace. Occasionally, Lowe is defeated by the budget (it’s hard to make a genuinely gory film with special FX this cheap), but like Ben Wheatley’s underseen Sightseers, Prevenge is a black comedy more interested in character and one-liners than spectacle or graphic violence. Unlike her previous work, however, the comedy in Prevenge feels a little too broad, clashing with the genuinely creepy horror on display. From a prolonged subway sequence that pays homage to 1981’s Possession to the Halloween-set climax, Prevenge suggests that Lowe’s next project should ditch the comedy for an all-out horror.
It’s impressive for any actress to write, direct, and star in a film whilst heavily pregnant; it’s even more impressive that Alice Lowe made an enjoyable film out of it. The cheap and cheerful approach occasionally hampers the horror, and the comedy isn’t quite as sharp as her previous efforts, but Prevenge manages to raise a smile while providing plenty of creepy images and surreal dialogue. The story isn’t hugely gripping, but Lowe’s intensely disturbing performance and flair for horror visuals carry the film. Prevenge may be a modest debut, but it marks out Lowe as one to watch both behind and in front of the camera.
By Harry J. Ford
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