Alice Lowe has gained a strong and loyal fan base among horror lovers, from her days with the TV series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace through to her film work with Ben Wheatley in Kill List and Sightseers (which she cowrote), as well as Aaaaaaaah! and The Ghoul. Those fans will certainly not be disappoint with Lowe's first outing as a director in Prevenge, which she also wrote and stars in.
Filmed while Lowe was actually pregnant (it was shot in just 11 days in her eighth month), Prevenge has a very simple but very clever premise: widowed Ruth is being ordered by her evil unborn baby to go out and kill. And so Ruth does, starting with a rather vulgar pet store owner and moving through a collection of men who seem just as awful. But are these gruesome, bloody murders really taking place, or are they just happening in Ruth's head? (At no time to we see the police discovering the bodies piling up). And what connecction do all these men have to the death of Ruth's husband?
Prevenge is a stunning directorial debut from the very talented Lowe. It's blackly comic and the killings are nasty and gruesome, but there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Pregnancy and childbirth is a complete mystery to men, and for women it has got to be a scary time - here is this alien being invading and taking contdrol of your body for several months, making all sorts of demands and. At one point in the film, a cheerful midwife (Jo Hartley) rather patronisingly says to Ruth: “Baby will tell you what to do.” And "baby" sure does. But what is really going on in Ruth's head? Does she really have a homocidal maniac gestating in her womb, or is it just her fears of motherhood - especially single motherhood - preying on her mind?
The ability to create life and give birth terrifies both men and women, for different reasons. Men are terrified by the lack of control they have, which is why so many cultures try to dominate women and tell them what they can and cannot do where reproduction is concerned. It's this power women have that scares men the most, but what scares women is the pressure and expectations put upon them: they have to nine months of their lives over to carrying this tiny being, and if anything goes wrong then they get the blame (and the guilt). And it doesn't end after the birth, ,because society expects women to do most of the ehavy lifting when it comes to raising the child. All thse thoughts and fears and doubts and terrors come across in Lowe's very funny, very sharp script, and her central performance as Ruth is complex, powerful and moving.
While it's hugely entertaining and very funny, Prevenge is also a slyly clever take on the anxiety of giving birth and coping with grief. And it's also a powerful calling card for Alice Lowe – here is a filmmaker we definitely want, and need, to see a lot more from.