No, it’s not about someone seeking vengeance on those who haven’t wronged her yet; the title of this comedy slasher, the directorial debut of Alice Lowe, is actually a portmanteau of ‘pregnancy’ and ‘revenge’.
Lowe plays Ruth, a woman left isolated after a tragic incident has taken the life of her partner. She’s not entirely alone, though; she’s pregnant, and hears her foetus talking to her. The doctors may not believe her, but Ruth’s unborn daughter is surprisingly intelligent. And, like many babies, she’s a complete bastard. From the womb, she encourages Ruth to track down and murder the six people involved in daddy’s death, even though some of them are ordinary people who really aren’t to blame. Ruth feels she has no choice but to comply – what baby wants, baby gets.
Prevenge follows Ruth as she works through this kill list, and we get a series of very different, yet all entertaining, murder sequences. The victims are played by actors you might recognise from British comedy TV, including Murder in Successville’s Tom Davis and Angelos Epithemiou himself, Dan Skinner, as well as two stars of Game of Thrones, Gemma Whelan and Kate Dickie.
They’re all sharply written characters who demand different tactics from Ruth, though the highlight is Davis’ performance as DJ Dan, a misogynist oaf with a high opinion of his own masculinity and a horribly cheesy afro wig. As he slimily tries it on with Ruth, it’s easy to believe the only reason anyone would want to go home with him would be to kill him, and all too cathartic to see that play out.
It’s all very deadpan in style, reminiscent of Sightseers, a similarly murderous comedy that Lowe co-wrote and starred in with Steve Oram. Scripting this one alone (yes, as well as directing and starring – she’s quite the multi-tasker), Lowe’s dialogue is just as darkly, subversively hilarious; murder has never been so fun.
However, the fact that, talking foetus aside, Ruth is on her own throughout the story does mean that it doesn’t reach the same heights as Sightseers; it has not got as strong a central dynamic and large parts of the plot feel like ticking targets off a list without much character development. Closer to the end, though, the inner conflict between Ruth’s human nature and the psychotic foetus supposedly controlling her does allow for some intriguing developments. Both direction and performance from Lowe are carefully balanced to keep us questioning whether Ruth is really under baby’s spell or just mentally unbalanced due to her trauma.
With a nastily enticing concept and a wicked sense of humour, Prevenge is a very assured debut from Lowe, and STARBURST can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
PREVENGE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ALICE LOWE / STARRING: ALICE LOWE, KAYVAN NOVAK, GEMMA WHELAN, TOM DAVIS / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 5TH