Written and Directed by Alice Lowe
Ruth (Alice Lowe) suffered a terrible tragedy and is now a single pregnant mother to be. Something strange has happened though. She’s begun hearing the squeaky whispered voice of her unborn child. This gestating being compels Ruth to go on a series of murders that seem random at first but slowly reveal a methodology. The reason behind the killings and the tragedy that happens before the film starts to lead to a tragic and disturbing finale.
While the world talks in awe about Wonder Woman this weekend, a very fine film, and what a powerful statement it is for women, I argue that Prevenge is an even bigger feat for the gender. The film was made two weeks to Alice Lowe giving birth to her child. I cannot express what an accomplishment that is. If you have ever watched Project Greenlight or seen extensive behind the scenes features on films then you know what a massive load of work making a single movie, even a low budget independent one can be. Add on to this the last trimester of pregnancy, and I have to give a hand to Lowe for pulling this off so damn well.
Prevenge walks a very fine line between comedy and horror, a combination of tones I’ve expressed my pickiness over. I never once felt the story became too jokey, it always is able to center itself back in the tragedy and bloodshed at the root. Lowe herself as an actress manages to convey a broad range of emotions in every scene. The character of Ruth is deeply conflicted with the acts she is committing yet is still a hunter, seeking her prey. Every ounce of anxiety and second-guessing comes across beautifully which eventually melts into a reminder of her hatred.
There are small touches that add much to the psychology of Ruth. Her notes on victims both before and after their murders are kept in a scrapbook for first baby moments. She is watching the British noir film Crimes Without Passion one evening and glimpses the spirits of the classical Furies as they appear in the movie. This image of the Furies returns to her multiple times in the film and seems to imbue her with a sense of superiority and rage. During one of these spells, the disembodied voice of her child snaps at her to not stand out and to blend in. Ruth goes about her day to day life being a sort of invisible person. She comments on this to one of her victims before dispatching with them, and there is a loneliness that surrounds her.
The only regular presence in Ruth’s life comes in the form of a gratingly annoying midwife (Jo Hartley) who communicates in cliche maxims (“Baby knows best”). In Lowe’s screenplay, she refrains from turning the midwife into a figure of ridicule or a caricature. This woman is a there to help Ruth but may not always know how to help her. At one point, Ruth is worried that social services will be contacted and her baby will be taken away from her, and the midwife assures her she isn’t going to tell them anything. In a lesser screenplay, the midwife would be revealed as having told them behind Ruth’s back, but here she genuinely lets odd behavior pass because she understands Ruth’s personal tragedy.
Prevenge is a masterful, quick paced horror flick that has all the sort of open-endedness I love. The resolution is not a neat tying up of the loose ends. You’re going to think about this one for a long while. I believe it is a very powerful statement from Lowe to examine such a dark side of an experience she was going through at the moment. From the media I’ve read surrounding the film, Lowe also appears to be a single mother, though likely having a greater support network than poor Ruth. The marginalization of Ruth is a key piece of the film, it’s how she gets away with killing these people. No one ever really suspects her because she is invisible to so many.