SXSW 2017 Review | ‘Prevenge’ is a Dish Best Served Droll

To hear the greeting cards tell it, pregnancy is the most wonderful time in a woman’s life, filled with love and support and oh-so-comical cravings for peanut butter and pickles. But to hear horror movies tell it, pregnancy is a fucking nightmare in which your body is hijacked by a monster and taken for a Cronenbergian ride. Go ask Rosemary how much fun being pregnant was and get back to me, okay?

Prevenge, written and directed and starring a very pregnant Alice Lowe, is the story of a woman who describes her situation as a “hostile takeover.” Emphasis on the word “hostile.” Ruth is a single mother in a world that seems hellbent on keeping her lonely, on treating her as an object, and on threatening her unborn child in literal and symbolic ways. It would be enough to drive anyone a little mad, so when her baby starts telling her to kill people it’s pretty easy to sympathize, even when she goes through with it.

It’s the sympathy that gives Prevenge its power. Alice Lowe is an impossibly human performer – I’m willing to lay 100:1 odds that her eyes are simply sadder than yours – so even when she’s slashing throats you can’t help but feel like she might be real the victim here. The film plays out mostly as a series of vignettes as Ruth (Lowe) encounters one person after another and seemingly tries to connect to them on a meaningful level, but for the most part everyone so selfishly involved with their own bullshit that they don’t give a damn about her problems. It takes a whole village to completely ignore Ruth’s child.

Shudder

Shudder

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Alice Lowe lets these scenes play out as long as she wants them to, an approach which doesn’t do wonders for movie’s pacing but which gives her all the space she could possibly need to deliver a dynamite performance, surrounded by an impressive supporting cast. It’s a real treat to see actors like Tom Davis, Kate Dickie and Mike Wozniak chew on chitchat like it’s a bowlful of strawberries, but eventually we can’t avoid the fact that we do have questions about what’s going on, why Ruth is targeting these particular people, and what all of this has to do with anything outside of pointed metaphors and great performances.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: sometimes pointed metaphors and great performances are all you need. Prevenge is droll, biting and odd. Unless you’re expecting something with a lot more plot, you’re going to be delighted. Horrified, but delighted. Try to imagine a pregnant Vampire’s Kiss and you’re on the right track, a track that leads directly to this leisurely but kind of wonderful horror comedy.

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William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.