"hits the perfect balance of beautiful, disturbing, realistic and almost grotesque"
Shot in only 11 days, Prevenge revolves around Ruth, a young woman both heavily pregnant and recently widowed, and she begins to hear murderous advice from her unborn little girl. Unlike Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the expectant mother doesn’t question the voice inside her and begins to hunt her unborn daughter’s targets.
SPOILER ALERT: the title is actually very misleading: while the first act of the film made me believe Ruth’s victims might all be linked to a tragedy that would happen to the daughter once she was born, this is not the case at all. In fact, we soon realise that all Ruth’s victims are responsible for the tragic climbing accident leading to her lover’s death, and that this may not be a supernatural story, but a gritty psychological thriller with a dash of dark comedy. Having the twist this way around left me feeling cheated and I wonder if my reaction might have been different with another film title.
Twist or no twist, it was also a bizarre experience to watch a story with bloody murders and neither feeling scared nor really routing for the protagonist. Equally bizarre was the comedy itself, sometimes almost too disturbing to really be funny. Possibly though, the type of humour used in Prevenge is too quintessentially English for the Irish-French-American-Midlands-German mutt I am to fully connect with and comprehend. Like many foreigners, though I love the Sherlock type humour and was a huge fan of series such as Extras or films like Shaun of the Dead, many other English comedies (usually the ones that don’t get exported) systematically fail to make me laugh. With Prevenge, I kind of saw the humour on an intellectual level, but I hardly laughed (PS: I love America Psycho, so the blood/darkness wasn’t the issue).
All that aside, the premise was genius, watching a pregnant serial killer made for a few deliciously unusual and disturbing scenes. It also made me very curious how men would react to the film, as the tradition of the helpless and highly sexualised female victim is now cleverly replaced by two sexually predatory men (one of them still living with his mother), in addition to a tough spin-stress type and a young woman (Gemma Whelan) who refuses to be a victim. I also imagine that one specific scene might be specifically painful to male audiences.
The choice of locations was also great: starting with a strange animal shop full of snakes and spiders, we move to a 70s disco night at a pub, with crucial moments later taking place at a climbing club and at a Halloween party. All greatly enhanced by Ryan Eddleston’s cinematography, which hits the perfect balance of beautiful, disturbing, realistic and almost grotesque.
Performances were also strong overall, with a few great scenes, though my favorite was Jo Hartley as Ruth’s midwife, as her utter sensitivity and truthfulness anchored in the tragic reality of the story, yet (and therefore) become the only character to give me the chuckles during the film.
I’m definitely glad I saw this film, mostly for its bold choices and unusualness, but not one I’d necessarily see again as I would see other dark comedy cult films first. I expect that English natives might however have a very different response to it.