Thursday, December 1, 2016


Is Alice Lowe's Prevenge the female equivalent of/answer to David Lynch's Eraserhead? The plots to both films are different (Eraserhead is a surreal semi-autobiographical retelling of Lynch's very real fear of unplanned fatherhood, while Prevenge is a very dark comedy about a pregnant vigilante avenging the death of her baby's father), but Prevenge is also about a woman's fear of motherhood (along with the hormonal elements that come along with pregnancy). Alice Lowe is certainly not the first director to delve in to this territory, but she is the first director in quite some time to expose the depression & dark thoughts that can sometimes come along with pregnancy & motherhood in the abstract way that she did. More times than not there's this picture painted in movies where it's the man/husband/boyfriend that isn't equipped to handle parenthood and it just comes naturally to the woman/mother/girlfriend because all women supposedly have a natural motherly instinct. But the main character in Prevenge is in a little over her head. She's depressed, alone & has no support (I do appreciate that the stereotypical idea of what a single mother looks like is challenged in Prevenge without Alice Lowe probably even meaning to make any kind of social commentary).
In Prevenge, Alice Lowe plays “Ruth” - a single mother-to-be whose boyfriend died in a freak rock climbing accident. She's convinced the tragedy could have been avoided so in an effort to get revenge she tracks down all the people involved in the accident and proceeds to murder them one by one (some with ease & some with difficulty). The kicker is that Ruth takes orders/draws inspiration to kill from her unborn baby who talks to her from the womb (of course Ruth is the only person who can hear the voices coming from her pregnant belly).

Prevenge isn't too shabby when it comes to visuals either. Given the premise of the film, folks are bound to be caught up in that and not notice the visual similarities to everything from classic art...

to Chantal Akerman...

I'm not going to say that a man couldn't have directed something like Prevenge but I do think this film succeeded because it was directed by a woman who also happens to be a mother. You can tell this has an abstracted autobiographical quality to it. Prevenge probably comes from the crevices of a very real place. We all know Alice Lowe isn't a serial killer but the naturalistic tone of her film leads me to believe that she's had some understandably irrational thoughts during her pregnancy due to things like hormones, valid fears/concerns and other things I don't really have the right to speculate about. Alice Lowe is certainly not advocating/making a case for pregnant women to commit murder because they're cranky and have swollen ankles, but, much like how Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day is an exaggerated play off of the phrase; “I love you to death”, Prevenge feels like an exaggerated play on the frustrated pregnant woman who utters phrases like; “I hate being pregnant” or “I want to kill everybody right now!” Those are just momentary irrational thoughts (come to think of it, Trouble Every Day & Prevenge would make for an interesting double feature given that both films can be enjoyed at face value, or you could dig a little deeper to find the darker sources that influenced both films).

I also feel like had another director been given the same materials to work with, this would've been an immature gore fest with the sole purpose of nothing more than to gross people out or to be childishly provocative. I mean, on paper there's a lot of immature-sounding qualities about Prevenge. There's plenty of blood, throat slitting (highlighted in a scene involving a surprise appearance from Kate Dickie) and scenes of a pregnant woman getting in to a combination fist/knife fight. But Alice Lowe spreads all those things out. It isn't nonstop gore & violence. And at the end of the day we're presented with a strangely mature story told from a very brave/vulnerable point of view.

Lowe certainly hints at films that kind of paved the way for Prevenge in a subconscious way (Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, Demon Seed, etc) and I feel like her former collaborator Ben Wheatley may have rubbed off on her in more ways than one (Prevenge fits in perfectly with films like Kill List & Sightseers) but this is still very much Alice Lowe's own work that stands out among just about every dark comedy, horror/comedy & psychological thriller to come out in the last few years.

I liked Prevenge so much that immediately after my TIFF screening I reached out to my future sister in law (a mother of two) and strongly suggested that she put this in her queue of movies to watch whenever it becomes available. Prevenge is not for everyone (even some mothers) but given that I kind of know her taste in movies combined with how invested she is in being a mother, I was pretty certain that she, and other moms like her in particular, might enjoy this. Obviously even if you aren't a mother (or just a parent in general) you can still enjoy this. I'm a 30-something year old man with no kids and I consider Prevenge to be one of the best movies of 2016.


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