Alice Lowe is a freak of nature. She not only directed Prevenge—making it her first feature film—but she also wrote and starred in it as the leading lady and mentally disturbed Ruth. While there are many instances of filmmakers directing, writing, and starring in their own films, I doubt any of them were actually pregnant while doing so—see, she’s a freak of nature! Although her somber horror-comedy has flashes of greatness, its minimal narrative and lack of any appealing characters ultimately hold it back. In it, widow Ruth is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way.
The film opens with an immediate hook and its pitch black-n-bloody tone on display—an encounter with a questionable pet shop owner reveals that Ruth is not your typical soon-to-be mother. It’s here, too, that Prevenge shows its take-no-prisoners attitude; no one is safe from Ruth’s pregnancy-fueled wrath. I can appreciate Lowe’s heady approach to horror; there’s something innately powerful about a pregnant woman taking matters into her own hands. The problem, however, is that Ruth is nearly impossible to connect with as a character, which is saying something when her madness is driven by the fact that her unborn child’s father is dead and the unbearable challenge of raising a child alone weighs heavy on her—and yet I still felt no sympathy for the character.
Terrified of her own baby, one that she believes is commanding her to do horrible things, Ruth goes on a murderous frenzy. As cool as that sounds, the issue here is that none of it has any real impact or meaning—sure, Ruth thinks she’s justified in killing all of these innocent people, but what’s in it for the audience? Not much, really. I say that because every single character outside of Ruth is one-dimensional, and with her already being a shitty character doing shitty things, it’s hard to care about any of it. The idea was there—a psychotic pregnant woman that’s particularly stab-happy is undeniable gold, especially when it’s coupled with Lowe’s wonderful sense of black-hearted comedy—but it just falls flat with no worthwhile characters steering the all of that rage.
I know that I’m in the minority here, but Prevenge just didn’t work for me. The entire premise hinges on Ruth, and because the character is innately awful and shallow—despite the film’s attempt at making us feel compassion for her—it ends up going in a predictable circle: Ruth meets man, Ruth kills man. And while the humor is a nasty shade of black (and probably its best quality), the rest of the film just isn’t that interesting.