Consistently wry and darkly comic, Prevenge marks the striking feature debut of British writer-director Alice Lowe.
The heroine is Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree that’s as funny as it is vicious, a femme whose actions are dictated by her misanthropic unborn baby.
Holding society responsible for the absence of a father, the child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims.
Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at this crucial moment of motherhood.
A triple threat, writing, directing, and acting in the film during her own pregnancy, Lowe has made an original and witty film that could only have been created by a deviously wicked female mind.
Nothing is taken for granted in Prevenge, a movie that sets out to contest and defy male-defined concepts of how women feel about their bodies, minds, and hearts, when they are pregnant.
Lowe plays single mother-to-be Ruth, first in a mission to kill the proprietor of a pet shop, then get rid of a pathetic pub DJ, while his elderly mom in the next room.
As noted, these are not Ruth’s ideas—her tasks are assigned by her unborn daughter, who speaks in s strange and mysterious voice.
It’s not a one-sided interaction, as Ruth talks back to the unborn, who is described by one nurse as “baby knows best.” Never mind that Ruth’s baby scrawls in a book self-portraits of herself wielding a knife.
Is Ruth in control of her body and mind? She certainly struggles to achieve such control, though she is well aware of the impossibility of her situation, which is by turns realistic and grounded but also equally absurd and surreal.
Prevenge feels like a first film in the positive sense of this term—it’s fresh, rough on the edges, and clever, adding a panel to a subgenre that could be described as a pregnancy horror movie, a type of work most viewers still associate with Polanski’s terrific Rosemary’s Baby.
Though the protagonist of that 1968 movie was a woman (well played by Mia Farrow), it was decidedly the creation of two males—albeit witty and visionary artists.
Lowe takes full advantage of her self-consciously female—and feminist—perspective, resulting in a deeply intimate feature, in which it makes perfect sense when the heroine claims in one significant scene, “I’m not grieving, I’m gestating.”