Director: Alice Lowe
Year of release: 2016
Country of origin: UK
Running time: 88 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "Killing for two".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Written, directed and starring Alice Lowe this British offering is part slasher and part black comedy drama. It follows heavily pregnant widow Ruth as she goes on a demented killing spree, acts she believes are being suggested to her by the voice of her unborn child still growing within her.
Spoiler: Sometime before Ruth’s partner was the unfortunate fatality of a climbing accident, an incident in which he was cut loose to plunge to his death in order to allow six fellow climbers to live. Though it’s implied an inquiry decided on attaching no blame to the surviving members of the climbing group Ruth is vehemently opposed to this outcome. Spurred on by what she takes to be the voice of her soon to be born daughter she sets out to dispatch the members of the climbing group one by one.
Good points: *Featuring a legitimately pregnant actress as both the main character and killer, Prevenge is a very unique offering and something that as far as I’m aware has never been done before within the genre. To be able to watch something so different feels like a breath of fresh air at times. Alice Lowe plays the Ruth role very authentically and both her acting and that of most everyone else within the film for that matter is very good. I liked how she wasn’t overly glamorous but instead just a very normal homely looking woman which better enabled her to blend in and catch her victims by surprise.
Operating on another level the film also acts as a commentary of sorts on the stresses of pregnancy and the worries brought on at the prospect of facing motherhood as a single parent. It also deals with the depression and unacceptance that can occur after loosing a close loved one. Ruth seems constantly paranoid of social services stepping in and taking her child away after the birth if she reveals the full extent of her mental health issues.
*The black comedy aspects of the film work pretty well with the characters of the pet shop owner Mr Zabek and in particular the sleazy DJ Dan both providing some humorous moments. The scene with Ruth and Josh as well, the latter of whom is a well meaning hipster type modern man is also quite amusing once Zac arrives home to interrupt.
Comedy wise I also liked the high pitched helium balloon type voice of the unborn baby which Ruth hears in her head.
*With this being a story in which the killer strikes after fooling people into thinking she’s harmless and gaining their trust to a certain extent there understandably is no mask but towards the end Ruth does paint her face to go after someone at a Halloween costume party. By this point she has well and truly gone off the deep end and her over the edge mental state coupled with the sinister make-up combine to make her look quite demonic. The sequence which follows with Ruth walking through a busy city high street at night on route to the party while in this state is very nicely shot and should appeal to those with an artistic eye.
Bad Points: *Mild spoilers: The biggest gripe I had with the film is that you have to suspend your disbelief too much, specifically in that Ruth makes little to no attempt to hide or cover up her crimes. Despite this though she never even seems close to being caught just from the evidence she would have left behind.
The police would surely at least want to talk to her however as on several occasions she would have been known to be the last person seen with the deceased. The taxi driver for example would have been able to confirm she was together with the DJ and she also had a scheduled appointment for a job interview with one victim and spoke to someone on reception on the way up to the interview room.
No one suspects a pregnant lady I guess but the police would definitely at least want to talk to her relating to the office kill if nothing else.
I did think while watching that it was unrealistic that someone so heavily pregnant would be able to move around so easily and perform the murders so effectively as well not to mention escaping through a dog flap at one point towards the end of the film. I later read that Alice Lowe was actually legitimately pregnant during the shooting of the movie though so perhaps it’s not so far-fetched after all.
*Spoiler: The full reasons for Ruth’s murderous actions are drip fed to us throughout the film but even at the end of it I didn’t have the full picture as to what had happened. The information about the accident was extremely sketchy so we didn’t see properly what had happened or why the members of the group felt that cutting one of their own loose was their only option. It would have been interesting to see the accident fully play out and in addition to see if all the group were in agreement about sacrificing someone to save the majority.
*Another spoiler: I wasn’t very keen on the end of the film as it didn’t leave a clear resolution as to whether Ruth actually killed Tom up in the mountains. I was left wondering if she finished the job or if due to her delicate condition he was able to get the better of her. In truth I wasn’t even sure if the ending was supposed to be real or just a fantasy of Ruth’s. Seeing that she’d just gone through a caesarean you wouldn’t think she’d be in any condition to even leave the hospital let alone get herself to the site of the accident up in the hills/mountains. This might not be a problem for some viewers but for me I always come away feeling disappointed with ambiguous endings that don’t provide a complete resolution.
Verdict: Prevenge garnered a lot of positive reviews from critics around the time of its release a few years ago and though I can’t help but feel it’s a bit overrated it remains an interesting and unique piece of film making.
It’s refreshing to have such a massively different type of killer and the mental health angle is also intriguing. While not anything particularly special the kills are reasonably bloody which was a surprise and though not memorable enough to list as a positive in themselves they were never less than adequate. The humour I felt worked well enough in places though is very British so those from other countries may not see the appeal here.
On the negative side it feels somewhat unrealistic and I thought more of a concrete explanation was required with regards to the climbing accident as well as a more clear and definitive ending.
This is well worth a watch as something different but perhaps don’t go into it expecting a classic.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Mr Zabek: Stabbed in the neck with knife in pet shop.
2)DJ Dan: Stabbed in the groin.
3)Ella: Throat cut.
4)Zac: Bludgeoned with what I think was a small statue and then stabbed in the eye.
5)Josh: Killed off camera. We just see Ruth pouncing towards him.
6)Len: Stabbed in the stomach.
Note: I’m not counting Tom as not only do we not see him die but it could be a dream sequence. Also I’m not counting Ruth’s husband/boyfriend as that death occurred before the film began with only fragmentary flashbacks of the incident being shown.