“I’m your vehicle, baby; I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go . . .”
Written and directed by Alice Lowe, Prevenge follows Ruth (Lowe), a pregnant widow who begins systematically murdering a select group of people, believing them to be responsible for the death of her partner. She is apparently following the will of her unborn child, who constantly speaks to her, forcing her to carry out the revenge plan, but is Ruth simply the vehicle for this malign presence or is she carrying out the killings of her own accord?
This was a film that I’d been meaning to see for a little while; I’d heard some pretty positive things about it but in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much, not exactly being a fan of Alice Lowe – I thought that Sightseers wasn’t as great as certain people made it out to be and I was too uninterested to make it past the first half hour of Black Mountain Poets (I only sought it out because it’s set in Wales and a friend that I knew from youth theatre was in it).
So while I was expecting Prevenge to not be “quite my tempo”, expecting an overall average film, the film turned out to be a very pleasant surprise because at the end of the day, Prevenge is a very solid piece of filmmaking – a tonally balanced, unique and fascinating piece of jet black horror comedy.
Starting with the woman of the hour, so much praise needs to go to Alice Lowe, who wrote the whole film in around three days, directed it over the course of several weeks and played the main role of Ruth, all while eight months pregnant. As her first directorial endeavour, her direction is accomplished as she manages to perfectly balance the horror and the comedy and she uses a whole variety of shots and filming techniques, managing to create an overall engaging and vibrant film experience. The pacing is perfect, the film has an ideal length (there are few, if any, unnecessary scenes) and Toydrum’s original score is an excellent accompaniment. Plus, the film makes great use of the song “Vehicle” by The Ides of March (see opening italics); the lyrics cleverly reflect the themes and message of the film.
Prevenge is a great example of both horror and comedy and it is all ably balanced throughout the film; the horror and gore is used sparingly but when it necessarily occurs, it is ideally dark, brutal and often outrageous and alongside all of this, the accompanying black comedy is a great companion – it is wicked, twisted and dark and doesn’t stray into silliness, which is what I was half expecting.
Lowe’s writing is also on the money as Prevenge has a unique, compelling story, surely like nothing that you’ve ever seen before, and the script itself is clever, sharp and often quite funny. There’s a central mystery to be solved, the mystery of just what happened to her former partner and why she specifically wants revenge on these particular people, and the necessary information is gradually given to us in bits and pieces over the course of the film; it’s so admirable because it’s one of those stories that clearly doesn’t spoonfeed you the answers and counts on its audience being smart enough to figure it all out for themselves, leaving enough to the imagination (though I must admit that it was only a few hours after watching the film when I finally realised just why she was targeting those specific people – when I FINALLY caught up, my appreciation for the excellent story went even deeper).
As well as a very fine supporting cast that includes Jo Hartley, Kayvan Novak, Kate Dickie and Mike Wozniak, Alice Lowe herself is a great lead as she delivers all the dark, deapan quips very well, she often quite steely-eyed and slightly unhinged and perhaps most importantly, she’s actually very likeable throughout and this is achieved quite cleverly by Lowe making her first few victims properly detestable, especially the particularly repulsive, sleazy dirtbag of a DJ – a few minutes in his presence, listening to how he “loves fat birds” (not even realising that she’s pregnant!) since they “don’t have any standards” and I was clearly willing Ruth to do away with him – “Oh please, kill this guy!”, I was saying! All of this smartly and effectively gets the audience on her side very early on so that we actually care about her finding out the truth, worrying that she is at the mercy of her sinister unborn child.