Written by: Dale Raulerson
Directed by: Alice Lowe
Cast: Alice Lowe, Jo Hartley, Kayvan Novak
At first glance Prevenge sounds like it could be a very funny and emotionally interesting concept, especially coming from the mind of the hilarious Alice Lowe who wrote, directed and starred in the feature. She was also 7 months pregnant at the time of filming, making this a clearly personal film in relation to her experience and the various feelings wrapped up in being pregnant. Obviously I could never profess to fully understand something I have not, nor ever will experience personally, but I can’t say that this film gave me much to mull over either. A dull and evenly unlikable cast of characters coupled with a lack of coherent character growth and a cheesy and unsatisfying conclusion undermine the film’s concept entirely, making it bit of a chore to get through.
From a technical perspective, the film isn’t bad. The low budget is evident, but the camerawork is solid and with very little need for special effects, there isn’t much visually to detract from. The handful of blood and gore effects actually look really nice, not over the top but raw enough to be grotesque. The sets are pleasant and varied enough to keep things interesting, from pet stores to disco clubs to a sterile company conference room. Besides the few nice looking kills though, there isn’t much about the film that is impressive to look at either. It’s effective, but rarely more than that. Lowe’s costume and makeup during a Halloween party late in the film are memorable though, and the scene is definitely one of the better parts of the movie.
If there is one thing great about the movie though, it is definitely the score. The synth soundtrack, courtesy of the musical duo Toydrum, is warm and compelling. The music makes itself integral to every scene, expressing a great deal more emotion and energy than what we receive from the performances or dialogue. Frankly, it is a score wasted on a movie too bland for it.
Which is basically what the whole film boils down to; the visuals and score are good and even great, but the substance of the plot and characters just isn’t there to be supported. We do garner some moments of insight into the fears of expectant motherhood and the pain of loss in Lowe’s script, but it trudges through multiple samey sequences of murder, most often of characters who ironically have more life in them than the lead. Ruth, our main character, is a scathingly unlikable person, yet isn’t so reprehensible to be an enjoyable villain. She’s simply rude and curt while several of her victims are surprisingly amiable. The flaws of the characters are put on a pedestal, as though trying to justify their deaths, but it feels as though the film is taking a moral high ground that isn’t justifiable. People don’t deserve to die because you don’t agree with the way that they live. The concept of a general populace of assholes is done substantially more effectively in Macon Blair’s I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore.
This all comes to a head in the conclusion, which felt as though it was finally building up to something of emotional value. Ruth confronts her perceived source of grief on a few occasions, and through them and her finally giving birth, she seems to begin to come to terms with her real pain and a path forward for herself and her child. Then they throw that all away for a goofy final shot that I guess is supposed to be…funny? It’s campy in the worst possible way, and invalidates any deeper meaning or value in what had come before it. I wish I could say something more positive about Prevenge, but I personally could not recommend it for anything but the soundtrack. It’s boring, pointless, and curiously pretentious in spite of itself.