Sunday, 13 August 2017

Review: Prevenge


Cert: 15 / 87 mins / Dir. Alice Lowe / Trailer

Let's be honest, when the words 'written, directed by and starring..' are followed by only one name, that usually sets off more alarm bells than an earthquake at the Chubb factory. And yet that wasn't the case when I heard of Alice Lowe's feature-project (alas I couldn't schedule a cinema viewing as it was a somewhat low-key release). Quite the opposite, if anything. It was also a good vibe that was borne out in full over 87 minutes of escalating, often eviscerating, existential dread and gore. Because with a film like Prevenge, you'll take all the good vibes you can get…

Lowe plays (and yes, writes and directs) Ruth, a recently bereaved pregnant woman who becomes convinced that her unborn child is urging her to kill. And who can say no to their own baby, right? It's not a random slaughter-spree, and the link between the victims is teased out over the course of the film as Ruth gets closer to the little one's arrival.

Having seen Alice in a (vaguely) similar role in Sightseers (which she co-wrote with Steve Oram), I have to say that this feels very similar and I wonder how much of Wheatley's directorial style has influenced this film. That's not to dilute Lowe's skills as a storyteller, but these are definitely movies you'd keep on the same shelf*2.

The film is accompanied by Toydrum's synth-driven soundtrack which brought to mind Giorgio Moroder's score for Scarface*3; growing heavier and more intense with each scene, you know things are only going to end one way.

It's a fascinating study into how repellent you can make a lead character (and not framing them as an anti-hero) without the viewer turning against them. Because Ruth is more difficult to like as the film progresses, yet the narrative angle never turns to one of pity. Just morbid, eyebrow-raising curiosity. The supporting cast are familiar faces from British TV comedy and/or drama, but with the exception of Jo Hartley's midwife and Kayvan Novak, they're in largely one-off appearances due to the nature of the story.

Although this is a comparatively short film (by today's studio standards - 90 mins seems to still be the standard for indies) it's structured almost episodically, as Ruth adopts a slightly different persona for each killing, with recurring anchors of her own flat and the pre-natal midwife's office. This almost makes it feel like Prevenge could have been a series of interconnected web-shorts at one point in its development, with the potential for wider tonal shifts in each sequence.

But all in all, Prevenge is an amazing, near-perfect achievement. Not least because Lowe made it while she was actually pregnant herself. Most parents show their kids photos of the baby-bump in an album. This will be an altogether different conversation…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Sightseers, The Love Witch, Filth.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD / Blu-ray / Video-on-demand, though?
It is.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
So far, quite possibly.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Hell no, it won't be for everyone.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film's got Alice Lowe in it, and she was in Kill List along with Michael 'The Rogue One Dr. Evazan' Smiley.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Because I can't really complain about my local cinema not showing enough new movies and complain that I never have time to watch stuff at home, now can I? [ BACK ]

*2 Unless you're one of those insane people who keep all their DVDs and Blu-rays in alphabetical order irrespective of category or genre, just like no video store ever has… [ BACK ]

*3 The second movie this year to give my that feeling and another nod to Ben Wheatley. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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