FILM REVIEW: PREVENGE – Final Girls Berlin Film Festival
This weekend marks the return of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, and the line-up is looking strong. This particular fest aims to showcase female driven horror films, whether they’re writers, producers, or directors. It’s about damn time that women start getting some horror recognition, since many of the strongest horror offerings of the past few years have been created by them. It’s also no secret that women happen to be some of the most rabid horror fans out there, even more so than many of the guys I know.
The film we will discuss this week checks nearly all of those boxes with Alice Lowe’s PREVENGE. This film is a dark tale of a pre-natal homicidal tendency that will leave most viewers feeling a little uneasy. It falls somewhere on the spectrum between dark comedy and horror while also providing some very pointed social commentary. Ms. Lowe wrote, directed, and stars in this dark little piece of genre cinema and in it, she’s a very nasty woman.
Alice Lowe is no stranger to genre films, having worked with some of the heavyweights coming out of the UK. Many viewers will undoubtedly recognize her for her bit parts in a number of Edgar Wright films, but she was the standout in Ben Wheatley’s superb travel flick SIGHTSEERS (which Lowe co-wrote). In some ways PREVENGE feels a little like a companion piece to SIGHTSEERS, and it would make for a pretty hard-edged double feature. Note to self…I should program this double feature as a nice retrospective on modern UK horror cinema.
PREVENGE is the story of Ruth (Lowe) as she makes her way through life as a soon-to-be single mother. Currently she’s impoverished, and fallen on hard times in tandem with the final term of her pregnancy. In spite of it all, she makes it work, regardless of the obstacles in her way at every turn in terms of both societal and institutional influences. Lowe has a disarming “girl next door” quality that makes her seem pretty non-threatening. Add to that mix her pregnancy, and she seems downright sweet & wholesome. Rest assured, in this film, she is anything but. The film opens with Ruth looking to pick out a reptilian pet from a shop run by a real creep-o. As she is shopping around, the shopkeeper is offering help while also offering…something else. He’s repugnant as are most of the men in this film. Although he’s offering assistance, he’s also dripping in innuendo while asking if she’d like to see his “big fat snake” along with other charming turns of phrase. Not the most subtle approach to wooing the opposite sex, but he doesn’t seem the least bit phased by speaking this way to our mother-to-be. As he leans down to get the actual snake from his tank, Ruth leans in and slits his throat. She then goes on with her day…onto the next! Mind you, this is probably the first 3-5 minutes of the film.
We come to learn that Ruth hears her unborn child speaking to her. The child is pure anger and rage as it coaxes Ruth into carrying out her dark desires. This fetal female version of Travis Bickle has a pretty dark outlook on life, and yet hasn’t even left the womb. She finds all men to be repulsive liars, and her occasional monologue discusses cleansing the masses much like Mr. Bickle would do in TAXI DRIVER. We know that this voice is a manifestation of Ruth’s heartache and insecurities, but to her it’s as real as it gets. I found it impossible not to think of the 1990 cult classic BABY BLOOD, but only in terms of an unborn fetus calling the bloodthirsty shots. This is high praise, as I absolutely love that weird little French film!
Ruth views the child as if she’s incubating hatred incarnate, and the world is gonna pay. We come to learn that Ruth’s baby-daddy was killed in a climbing accident that Ruth holds the instructors accountable for. At first the murders seem almost random, until we make the connection that her “baby” is getting revenge for growing up without a father. Anyone involved in the events of that day had better watch out. Ruth seems harmless, so no one thinks twice about allowing that pregnant woman to use the loo. As Ruth makes her way victim by victim, the voice becomes the only thing that matters, to the point where she doesn’t want to give birth for fear of losing the voice. At her core, she knows that the voice is her own doing, or does she?
PREVENGE is a strong entry into the cannon of feminine themed horror films. There’s quite a bit of social commentary, and even humor about the real horrors women face everyday. It isn’t a film that’s anti-men, but rather points out the misguided way men often treat women…especially pregnant women. There’s a very real fear and distrust about what men may really be after. The voice of the “baby” does not mince words in this department, as she sees most men as liars and rapists. The film is never preachy or overly message driven, but it brings these issues to light in a meaningful way. There’s a good bit of humor involved as Ruth and the baby navigate the city, albeit of the pitch-black variety.
PREVENGE is playing as the final feature on Friday February 2nd, and it should be a hell of a way to close out the day. For those of you stateside, PREVENGE is currently available on most VOD platforms. Check it out if you like your horror with some edgy comedy. Also, check it out to see one of the stronger emerging female voices in genre cinema. If you’ve seen and enjoyed SIGHTSEERS, this should be required viewing for you.
As a brief side note, PREVENGE made me realize that I have a fierce penchant for really long and awkward dance scenes. One of the men Ruth is after works as a seedy nighttime DJ, and their dance number oozes creepiness. I immediately thought of the dance number from EX MACHINA as well as the dance number from THE GREASY STRANGLER. So to all you filmmakers out there…keep ‘em coming!! After all, what’s better than a horror film that offers a little introspection and self-discovery?
3 ½ Tombstones out of 5
” PREVENGE is a strong entry into the cannon of feminine themed horror films ”