Horror films work best when tapping into relatable themes, exploiting and exaggerating everyday fears with terrifying results. In Prevenge we meet Ruth, whose prenatal depression drives her to carry out a vicious killing spree, egged on by the voice of the baby inside her.
“You’re never having that again,” cackles Ruth’s unborn baby at the sounds of sex from an adjoining hotel room. Real or imagined, this is the first instance of how the baby is dominating her life now. The point is hammered home when her second victim, a boorish DJ, baulks at a one night stand with Ruth when he realises she is with child. Pregnancy shapes her career prospects, the woman conducting Ruth’s job interview dismisses her as a viable candidate. Even leisure opportunities are restricted when another target, a climbing instructor, refuses to risk teaching her. Ruth, robbed of any identity of her own, is now seen only as an expectant mother. As she is repeatedly told by her condescending midwife, “it’s all about baby now.”
The loss of identity due to her pregnancy is emphasized as we learn very little about Ruth, her homelife, background, job or her as a person. We only know that she is grieving the loss of the baby’s father, killed in a rock climbing tragedy when his fellow climbers had to cut the rope to save the rest of the group (mirroring the act of cutting the umbilical cord, a theme brought up throughout the film). The closet we get to knowing the real her, is through the grumpy, sarcastic manner she treats the midwife, and when in conversation with her baby.
If the experience seems authentic, it’s because Alice Lowe wrote, starred in and directed the film while in the latter half of her own pregnancy. In doing so she presents the frustrations and horrors of a genuine, uniquely female experience, lashing out brutally at her marginalisation. Exploring these themes from a first hand experience in a darkly entertaining way makes Prevenge a vital film and a daring piece of British cinema.