I don’t usually talk about films here in The Churchyard but I thought I’d make an exception for Alice Lowe’s directorial debut feature, Prevenge. I’ve just got back from seeing it at my local cinema so I thought I’d write a quick, off-the-cuff piece about it while the excitement of it still has me in its clammy grasp.
It’s an everyday tale of a heavily pregnant woman being encouraged, by the foetus residing inside her, to take bloody revenge on those who caused the death of her partner; written, directed and starring Alice Lowe.
Of course, we know Lowe from, among other things, the Ben Wheatley directed film, Sightseers, which she also starred in and co-wrote. Like Sightseers, Prevenge is a darkly comic and violent film, but where Sightseers had a certain Mike Leigh style homely warmth to it, Prevenge has a far bleaker feel. The sumptuous rural colours of the Sightseers cinematography have been replaced by a grainy urban austerity interspersed with splashes of vivid colour and the overt humour has been replaced by an extraordinarily brilliant sense of discomfort and awkwardness.
I think Mark Kermode has already commented on the possible influence of Zulawski’s 1981 film Possession, particularly with the underpass scene and the weird tentacular nature of Zulawski’s creature being taken in Prevenge by the close-up of a writhing Giant Millipede.
I’m sure I can also detect an influence of ‘70s Giallo with the bold use of colour in certain scenes (windows and doorways lit up in blue in an otherwise grey street) and also in the synthesised score.
I don’t know whether these are intentional influences or not. If they are then they’re used with a very light hand and are in no way over-powering to the point of pastiche, as is the case with many films. Prevenge remains a unique piece.
A very unique piece!
Lowe’s strong central performance has that uncomfortable awkwardness that we all know and love her for and then come these occasional blasts of growling intensity which take your breath away for a moment. Of course, you would expect a film with a pregnant protagonist to be heavy on the prosthetics but, in this case, that bump was all real as Alice Lowe was pregnant during the filming. Terrific performances too from the always brilliant Jo Hartley and from an actor I’m not that familiar with, Mike Wozniak. It’s also good to see Tom Meeten making an appearance, albeit in a very brief role (I’m biased here though as Meeten is an old school and college friend of my wife and it’s always fun to see him on the screen).
British independent films tend to get treated poorly by the big chain cinemas so I can’t imagine that Prevenge is getting widely screened, I’m lucky enough to have a brilliant independent cinema near me, but if you do get a chance to see it then see it. I want it to be a huge success as I’m really looking forward to see what oddities come scuttling out Lowe’s mind next.