We’ve seen all sorts of slasher movies over the years, but there’s never been all that much diversity where the actual slashers are concerned. Most of the aggressors in these movies are white, male, horribly scarred, and undead in some fashion. (See: Freddy, Jason, Michael, Chucky, etc.) But now we’re being treated to a long overdue role reversal—not only is the bloodthirsty maniac here a seemingly plain, average British woman, but she’s also seven months pregnant. Therein lies the hook that elevates Alice Lowe’s smart, scary, and dryly amusing Prevenge beyond the trappings of (yet another) slasher flick retread; Ms. Lowe knows what horror fans have seen, what they want, and how to deliver the goods in a refreshingly unique fashion.
First-time feature director Alice Lowe—a prolific British actress who co-wrote the darkly hilarious Sightseers (2012) for Ben Wheatley (and co-starred in his horror masterpiece Kill List)—seems to possess not only an obvious affection for the modest pleasures of old-school “slasher cinema,” but (much like we saw with Sightseers) she has a real gift for maintaining a droll, winning sense of humor during even the most violent and horrific of misadventures. Here Lowe plays a seemingly aimless and quietly unhinged pregnant woman who is plainly intent on killing a bunch of people… but why? Is she out for revenge? Why is she so angry? What has become of her baby’s father? Perhaps she’s just suffering from a severe post-natal depression a few months early. But one thing’s for certain: Ruth is one ruthless killer, and her exploits are as bloody and macabre as they are weirdly fascinating.
It’s no spoiler to divulge that Ruth often hears internal “messages” from her unborn child, which gives the viewer a clue as to the anti-villainess’ fractured mindset. The exchanges between Ruth and her tiny passenger make for some great parcels of pitch-black comedy and necessary character development—but Prevenge is certainly not ashamed to be seen as a full-bore, take-no-prisoners, old-school slasher flick. From the appreciably fast-paced editorial approach and Lowe’s powerhouse lead performance to a fantastic musical score (by Toydrum) and enough compelling subtext to fill three genre flicks, there’s enough intelligence and dark wit on display here to call Prevenge the best horror film of its sort since Mary Harron’s wonderfully twisted American Psycho; the horror fans will appreciate the scary bits, and those who are in the market for a slasher flick with some actual intelligence will find themselves pleasantly surprised.
Like the coolest horror flicks, Prevenge doles out the scary, gory, and shocking bits in generous fashion, but thanks to Lowe’s distinctly unique (not to mention refreshingly feminine) spin on some very old genre tropes, Prevenge turns out to be one of the best movies of its kind in quite some time. It’s dark, it’s freaky, it’s funny, and it keeps you guessing throughout most of its enjoyably efficient 88-minute frame. Prevenge is so novel and smoothly effective, it would probably make for a great double feature with the wildly exhausting 2007 French horror film Inside… especially if you’re an intrepid horror fan who knows how it feels to be pregnant.
4.5 out of five maternally impaired burritos:
Prevenge is currently playing in UK cinemas. It is screening at the SXSW Film Festival in March before debuting in the U.S. through our friends at Shudder.