Many subjects are hard to tackle, be it politics, social class or sexual orientation. However, one of the hardest things to base a film around is pregnancy. In discussing the hardship of bringing a child into the world you risk insulting what is, for many, the greatest time of their life, contrary to that, if you idealise this time (like most Hollywood productions) you have many battle worn mums and dads sat at home sarcastically saying, “yeah, that’s clearly how it goes”. Handling a subject like this takes care…or, you can go for broke and create the world’s first pregnancy slasher comedy! And that indeed is what Alice Lowe (best known perhaps as the co-writer & star of director Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, 2012) has done.
The concept alone is enough to pique the interest of most cinema-goers, let alone those remarking that there are just not enough refreshing ideas around anymore. At a brisk 87 minutes, Prevenge wastes no time in getting going and despite the constant worry of thinking that it will come undone as a concept at any point, Lowe’s script and focused direction ensures that the film treads a fine balance between pitch black laughs and visceral horror. She even manages to render an unexpectedly effective climax. You will be shocked, you will be entertained and – at points – you may even worryingly find yourself associating with some of the themes.
Indeed the scenes with an evil foetus voice ordering this mother to be around and the slasher inspired narrative provide a darkly comical face to the film but Lowe’s feature has much to say beneath the potentially crazy exterior about grief, prenatal angst and complex human emotions and psyche. No doubt that, at points, the film slows the place and starts slipping into a style-centric visual ride (aided in no small part by Toydrum’s effective score and Ryan Eddleston’s giallo-esque cinematography) but no matter how weird or slow it gets, Lowe never loses the plot and it is to her credit as a filmmaker. One or two victims in Ruth’s reign of terror feel all too sudden but Lowe infuses the film with a wicked humour and in the lead role delivers an incredible performance that ensures you never zone out of what is an attention-grabbing piece of work. From start to finish she is brilliant and without doubt the shining star of the entire film, the fact she was legitimately heavily pregnant during much of the shoot, further exemplifies her passion as an auteur. She steals the show no doubt but there is also a notably strong performance by Jo Hartley as a well meaning midwife.
Overall, Prevenge will not be to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy your humour laced with blood, madness and an incredible sense of style, then this is a must-see. Lowe has made an immediate impression with her first work as a director and offered another tour de force of a performance as well. You will laugh, you will be freaked out and in one, ahem, balls out sequence you will squirm. A delectably black humoured treat.
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