2 out of 5
Directed by: Alice Lowe
I’m always down for new variations on the killer kid horror movie, but something about Prevenge – even without really knowing what it was about before viewing it – made me suspect I wouldn’t enjoy it too much. I was a big fan of Sightseers, both Prevenge’s Alice Lowe’s on-screen role and its script, which she co-wrote, so some of the dry- or darkly-humored antics and dialogue in Prevenge – similarly toned – certainly had me chuckling, but that film’s bleary exploration of romance blossomed into something much more shallow, both topically and in terms of presentation.
The promotional image for Prevenge is that of a calmly poised pregnant woman – our lead, Ruth (Lowe) – touching her stomach with one hand while, behind her back, the other grips a knife. So not a killer kid movie, perhaps, but a killer pregnant lady movie; still, it potentially fits that weird bill of slashers that may make you question your predisposition on some key things – family, kids, gender, etc. – and would thus still be up my alley of interests. That title, though, felt a bit too on the nose. Yes, it’s fun to go for puns, but it also seemed to just sort of set things up without needing to watch the movie: a pregnant lady killer with a vengeance agenda. And while the cutesy text styling thankfully suggested this wouldn’t be a trashy rape revenge thing, alongside the title, it suggested comedy, which suggested… easy targets.
While the high level concept of preggo vengeance wasn’t off, we also get a killer kid angle, as Ruth is apparently being urged to kill by the voice of her unborn daughter. Which is also fine. Lowe lays on the ‘scummy male’ thing heavily with Ruth’s first two victims – that would be the easy targets – but it’s too charicatured to really cheer or laugh at their demise, and too low budget for any impressive gore, and Ruth’s / her daughter’s internal voice, in wanting to keep later plot developments hidden, is too vague in its motivations to be intrigued as to what’s going on – if Ruth is really being ‘controlled,’ or is unhinged herself, etc. And there’s no development to this until we get the snippets of backstory we need for context, which doesn’t come until way late in the movie. So we’re just watching an empty character boringly off stereotypes.
Some shading as to what Lowe may have been wanting to explore happens when Ruth’s targets expand to a couple of women. The urging voice starts talking up selfishness, and how everyone is equally disgusting; some of her victims have varying takes on kids and being pregnant. Lowe – pregnant herself, at the time – shows us the possibilities of Prevenge exploring perceptions and assumptions: why we have children; what being a mother means; how you’re “different” as soon as you’re pregnant; what the point is. It’s heady stuff, and, unfortunately, quite beyond Prevenge’s m.o. beyond a couple of throwaway lines related to it.
The film has a nice, intimate look to it, and when Toydrum’s soundtrack isn’t leaning too much intro retro versions of its synths sounds, the score has a dreamy off-kilterness to it that would’ve especially worked well with a tighter script. Which I do think existed somewhere between the lines of Prevenge, perhaps without relying on withheld reasons for motivations and maybe even discarding the more overt humor. I don’t know. But movie, unfortunately, ended up being mostly exactly what I was expecting, and I wasn’t expecting very much.